unctad.org | Definitions of FDI
Definitions of FDI
 
Components of FDI
The components of FDI are equity capital, reinvested earnings and other capital (mainly intra-company loans). As countries do not always collect data for each of those components, reported data on FDI are not fully comparable across countries. In particular, data on reinvested earnings, the collection of which depends on company surveys, are often unreported by many countries.
 
The threshold equity ownership
Countries differ in the threshold value for foreign equity ownership which they take as evidence of a direct investment relationship. This is the level of participation at or above which the direct investor is normally regarded as having an effective say in the management of the enterprise involved. The threshold value usually applied for FDI is 10 per cent, for data on the operations of TNCs, it involves chosen ranges of between 10 and 50 per cent. Some countries do not specify a threshold point, but rely entirely on other evidence, including companies´ own assessments as to whether the investing company has an effective voice in the foreign firm in which it has an equity stake. The quantitative impact of differences in the threshold value used is relatively small, owing to the large proportion of FDI which is directed to majority-owned foreign affiliates.
 
Defining a controlling interest and treatment of non-equity forms of investment
Other than having an equity stake in an enterprise, there are many other ways in which foreign investors may acquire an effective voice. Those include subcontracting, management contracts, turnkey arrangements, franchising, leasing, licensing and production-sharing. A franchise (a firm to which business is subcontracted) or a company which sells most of its production to a foreign firm through means other than an equity stake are not usually collected, some countries have begun to contemplate doing so. For example, the OECD treats financial leases between direct investors and their branches, subsidiaries or associates as if they were conventional loans; such relationships will therefore be included in its revised definition of FDI.
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