Delegation of the European Union to Japan

Foreign direct investment report: continuous rise of foreign ownership of European companies in key sectors

Brussels, 13/03/2019 - 12:00, UNIQUE ID: 190314_1
Press releases

EU News 41/2019

Today the Commission released a detailed overview of the foreign direct investment situation in the EU.

The report is the first of its kind in terms of the detailed company level data used. It confirms a continuous rise in foreign company ownership in key sectors in the EU and an increase in investments from emerging economies, such as China. It illustrates the need for effective implementation of the freshly adopted EU investment screening framework.


With more than 35% of total EU assets belonging to foreign-owned companies, the EU has clearly one of the world's most open investment regimes. Foreign direct investment stocks held by investors from outside the EU amounted to €6,295 billion at the end of 2017 providing Europeans with 16 million direct jobs.

While traditional investors such as US, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, and Australia remain by far the top investors, accounting for 80 percent of all foreign-owned assets across all sectors of the EU economy, the report notes also some important trends: 

  • Foreign ownership of EU companies has been on rise in the last 10 years; 
  • Investment by state-owned enterprises has grown rapidly over the last years. Such companies from China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates have performed three times more acquisitions in the EU in 2017 than in 2007; 
  • Foreign ownership is high in some key sectors such as oil refining, pharmaceuticals, electronic and optical products, and electrical equipment; 
  • There has been a surge in investments from emerging economies, notably China, for aircraft manufacturing and specialised machinery, and India, for pharmaceuticals; 

"Offshore investors" control 11% of foreign-owned EU companies and 4% of all foreign-owned assets in the EU. Their presence is growing.

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