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September 6, 2022

FDI in logistics in 2021: The state of play

FDI in logistics experienced a decline in 2021 after a steep rise the previous year, but which countries and regions were the ones receiving FDI?

By Glenn Barklie

The Global FDI Annual Report 2022 shows the number of greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in logistics declined by 5.7% in 2021. This is more because 2020 was an exceptional year that witnessed a huge spike in demand for online goods and services due to Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, this meant the logistics sector was one of only a small number of FDI sectors to grow in 2020. Although project numbers declined slightly in 2021 compared with 2020, they were still 4.9% higher than pre-Covid levels.

Our database shows that there were 872 logistics FDI projects recorded in 2021, down from 925 the year before. In 2021, four out of every five (81%) logistics FDI projects were new investments, with the rest being expansion projects.

Where are the leading destinations for logistics FDI?

Western Europe was the leading region when it came to attracting logistics FDI in 2021, with 36.8% of all projects announced or opened globally. Investments in the Middle East and North Africa witnessed the largest annual percentage growth of 77%, followed by sub-Saharan Africa with 73.3%. Incidentally, Middle East and North Africa overtook North America as the fourth-largest destination region in 2021.

Germany once again topped the list of as the leading destination for inbound logistics FDI with 73 projects in 2021. The UK ranked second with 55 projects and the US placed third with 52. Out of the top ten countries, the United Arab Emirates witnessed the largest annual percentage increase, of 108%, in inbound logistics FDI in 2021, led by investments from Deutsche Post. Also, India doubled its receipt of logistics FDI in 2021, while inbound investment in China grew by two-thirds.

Poland, which exhibited strong FDI growth in 2020, witnessed a sharp decline of 38.8% in inbound logistics FDI in 2021. Germany (-25.5%) and the US (-18.8%) experienced notable annual declines.

China was the leading country when it came to investing in Germany. Chinese companies created seven projects in 2021. Dutch, British and French companies each created six projects in the country.

Amazon and Merit were the leading investors in Germany, each creating three projects in 2021. In June 2021, Amazon announced plans to open a new 9,400m2 distribution centre in Neubrandenburg, creating 180 jobs. UK-based airlines group easyJet also announced plans to invest $23.4m (€23.4m) to construct a new maintenance hangar at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, creating more than 45 jobs.

What are the top logistics FDI operations?

Logistics and warehousing is the primary business operation for foreign investors in logistics. This includes creating logistics centres, distribution facilities and warehouse storage. In 2021, 547 projects were created with a logistics and warehousing function, down 7.6% from 2020. Office establishments were the next most popular business operation. The number of office openings remained relatively stable in 2021 when compared with 2020. While there were 37 new headquarters openings announced by logistics companies in 2020, this fell to 29 in 2021.

Across both 2020 and 2021, Germany was the leading destination for logistics and warehouse operations with 44 projects recorded, just edging out Spain with 43 and the UK with 42. The US (38) and Poland (36) were also popular destinations. 

What are the top subsectors for logistics FDI?

Multimodal transportation, which typically encompasses the use of several mediums of transport to carry goods to final destinations, was the top subsector for logistics FDI in 2021 with a market share of 66%. Air transportation, which ranked second with 108 projects, witnessed a rise of 89.5% in inbound FDI from 2020. This is likely due to the recovery of the airline industry in 2021 and the increase in air travel. Water transport exhibited a marginal increase of 1.1% in inbound FDI levels from 2020 with 88 projects recorded in 2021.

The largest logistics project in 2021 was announced by Argentina-based e-commerce company Mercado Libre. It unveiled plans to invest $1.1bn (154.18bn pesos) to increase its storage and service capacity in Mexico. The expansion will create more than 4,700 jobs in the region. The company also announced plans to open a new 60,000m2 distribution centre in Nuevo Leon.

Thailand-based e-commerce logistics provider Flash Express was the leading investor in 2021 in terms of job creation. In November, the company announced plans to hire 7,000 more people in the Philippines for its logistics operations and corporate network. The company already employs 3,000 people in the Philippines.

Where are the leading logistics investors located?

Germany was the leading outbound market for logistics FDI in 2021. However, the number of outbound projects from German companies fell, with 145 such projects created in 2021 compared with 154 in 2020 – a 5.8% decline. The US ranked second with a significant 32.4% decline in outbound logistics FDI in 2021, while France ranked third with a decline of 9.1%. Denmark and the UK also witnessed steep declines in 2021.

Within the top ten countries, the UAE and Austria showed the largest annual growth in logistics FDI in 2021. The UAE companies created 42 projects in 2021, a growth of 110%, while Austria-based companies created 38 outbound projects – 111% higher than in 2020.

Germany-based Deutsche Post maintained its position as the leading outbound logistics investor in 2021. The company announced or opened 56 projects in 2021, primarily through its DHL country subsidiaries. US-based United Parcel Service and Germany-based Rethmann were also significant investors. The companies created 26 and 22 projects, respectively. UAE-based logistics provider Move One marked a new entry in the list of top ten investors, ranking seventh with 15 projects. The company opened several offices in the sub-Saharan Africa region in a bid to cover the entirety of Africa through its partner network.

Logistics FDI should continue its smoothing trend in 2022 after its notable spike in 2020. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its heightening of supply chain and inflationary pressures will see many FDI sectors impacted throughout 2022. However, demand for logistics operations is likely to remain consistent. Companies will continue to monitor and assess the need for logistics operations closer to customers and within key markets.

 Download the full Global FDI Annual Report 2022 here.

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