unctad.org | Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
 
Definitions of FDI are contained in the Balance of Payments Manual: Fifth Edition (BPM5) (Washington, D.C., International Monetary Fund, 1993) and the Detailed Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment: Third Edition (BD3) (Paris, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1996).
 
According to the BPM5, FDI refers to an investment made to acquire lasting interest in enterprises operating outside of the economy of the investor. Further, in cases of FDI, the investor´s purpose is to gain an effective voice in the management of the enterprise. The foreign entity or group of associated entities that makes the investment is termed the "direct investor". The unincorporated or incorporated enterprise-a branch or subsidiary, respectively, in which direct investment is made-is referred to as a "direct investment enterprise". Some degree of equity ownership is almost always considered to be associated with an effective voice in the management of an enterprise; the BPM5 suggests a threshold of 10 per cent of equity ownership to qualify an investor as a foreign direct investor.
 
Once a direct investment enterprise has been identified, it is necessary to define which capital flows between the enterprise and entities in other economies should be classified as FDI. Since the main feature of FDI is taken to be the lasting interest of a direct investor in an enterprise, only capital that is provided by the direct investor either directly or through other enterprises related to the investor should be classified as FDI. The forms of investment by the direct investor which are classified as FDI are equity capital, the reinvestment of earnings and the provision of long-term and short-term intra-company loans (between parent and affiliate enterprises).
 
According to the BD3 of the OECD, a direct investment enterprise is an incorporated or unincorporated enterprise in which a single foreign investor either owns 10 per cent or more of the ordinary shares or voting power of an enterprise (unless it can be proven that the 10 per cent ownership does not allow the investor an effective voice in the management) or owns less than 10 per cent of the ordinary shares or voting power of an enterprise, yet still maintains an effective voice in management. An effective voice in management only implies that direct investors are able to influence the management of an enterprise and does not imply that they have absolute control. The most important characteristic of FDI, which distinguishes it from foreign portfolio investment, is that it is undertaken with the intention of exercising control over an enterprise.


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