Foreign greenfield investment in Ireland hits 10-year high

A new UN study does much to allay "brass plate" fears...

Foreign greenfield investment in Ireland hits 10-year high

Picture by: Fredrik Von Erichsen/DPA/PA Images

Greenfield investment from foreign multinationals in the Republic was at its highest level in over a decade last year, according to new United Nation figures.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development's World Investment Report 2017 showed such investments were valued at $6.4 billion (€6.8bn) last year. This compared to figures of $6bn (€5.5bn) in 2015; $5.9bn in 2014; and an average of $5.7bn from 2005 to 2007.

Greenfield investments are a form of FDI where the foreign company builds its operations from the ground up in its new home.

They are a far more substantive gain for the country than controversial brass plate investments where companies look to take advantage of tax deals without creating much in the way of actual jobs. 

The accusation has been levelled at Ireland in the past that they have done too much to encourage the latter.

In November 2016, Finance Minister Michael Noonan took it upon himself to declare that, in the wake of Brexit:

"We don't want brass plate operations that simply come here and screw a brass plate on to a door for tax advantages and don't have the strong economic activity here that creates jobs, we don't want that."

Overall, FDI to Ireland fell sharply from $188bn in 2015 to $22bn last year. This, however, owed chiefly to the introduction of new regulations that required financial and corporate restructuring. 

It meant outflows from the Republic fell 73% to $45bn, fuelling an overall retreat in investment by European multinationals. Having surged in 2015, it fell 23% to $515bn last year.

Investment by European multinationals, which had surged in 2015, retreated significantly last year, falling 23% to $515 billion. This was driven by sharp reductions in outflows from the Republic, down 73 per cent to $45 billion.

Total FDI globally fell roughly 2% last year to $1.75 trillion. 

The greenfield slice of that pie saw a 7% increase to $828bn. Large investments in a small amount of developing economies accounted for a lot of this increase, with greenfield projects in developed countries falling 9% to $247bn.


The acquisition of US battery and heating company Johnson Controls by the Cork-based protection and security firm Tyco International for $23bn ranked as the ninth largest cross-border M&A deal targeting developed countries in 2016.

The largest was Bayer's acquisition of Monsanto for $57bn.

"Megadeals" continued to happen in the United Kingdom last year, despite the Brexit vote. The UN forecast that the UK's decision to leave the EU was unlikely to affect FDI until the terms of the departure became clear.