- Across Europe, the number of investment projects by foreign investors fell by 13% in 2020, but remains at a relatively high level compared to the long term.
- Opposite development in Switzerland: The number of investment projects increased by 25% and reached its highest level since 2011.
- Thanks to stable conditions and good infrastructure, investors continue to consider Europe to be one of the world's most attractive regions for investments.
A total of 5,578 investment projects were announced by foreign investors throughout Europe in 2020, which was 13 percent less than in 2019 – there had not even been a slump of this magnitude in 2009 after the financial crisis. Against a background of significant restrictions on public and economic life due to Covid-19, however, an even sharper decline in investment activity had been expected.
Some medium-sized economies – such as Poland, Turkey, and Austria – were even able to attract more investment projects from foreign companies last year than in 2019. This opposite trend has been observed in Switzerland, too: The number of investment projects in Switzerland rose by 25% in 2020 and, with 91 projects, even reached its highest level since 2011. As a result, Switzerland achieved the 14th place among European countries (2019: 17th place).
"This pleasing development is primarily due to the increased commitment by German companies to us; the number of investment projects from German companies almost doubled in 2020," is the analysis of Michael Messerli, Partner and Head of Strategy & Transaction at EY in Switzerland. US companies remained in second place. On the other hand, interest from British investors appears to have fallen. "And it is noticeable that once again very few investments were seen in Switzerland from our neighboring country, Italy."
The Swiss mainly invested in Germany
With 256 investment projects, the commitment of Swiss companies to other European countries in 2020 was at the same level as in the previous year (258). However, there were certain shifts: Germany gained in importance as an investment destination, while the number of projects in France fell significantly – so that Germany replaced France as the most popular investment destination for Swiss companies last year. Spain and Great Britain follow with about one third of the investment projects each.
Overall, the current study by the auditing and consulting firm EY on foreign direct investment in Switzerland and Europe in 2020 shows that the decline in foreign investments was significantly lower than initially feared. "In the spring of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic led to a kind of shock paralysis throughout Europe, to massive austerity measures, and to a temporary halt to many investment projects," summarizes Michael Messerli. "But the economy had already gotten going again in the second half of the year in many places, and in some cases even did so surprisingly quickly, and the investment environment improved again."
Positive prospects for Switzerland and Europe
Foreign companies still see Europe as one of the world's most attractive regions for long-term investment – mainly thanks to a relatively stable political and regulatory framework, a highly qualified workforce, and a comparatively robust transport, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure. The (temporary) growth plan "NextGenerationEU," with a budget of 750 billion euros, which is intended to make Europe greener, more digital, and more crisis-proof, should also contribute to this. However, the USA stimulus programs that have been launched recently could lead to some investments being transferred from Europe to the US.
Supply chains need to be realigned
Even before Covid-19, challenges such as the then impending Brexit, increasing trade barriers, and more and more new geopolitical tensions had led to strains on increasingly complex global supply chains. The coronavirus pandemic then quickly demonstrated the dependence on a few supplying nations in, for example, the case of medical supplies.
André Bieri, Partner and Markets Leader Switzerland & Liechtenstein, says about this: "Just-in-time production, which is standard in many industries today, depends on constant and reliable supply. The temporary border closures in the wake of Covid-19 have shown that this supply chain model cannot work all of the time. The current shortage of semiconductor chips also shows that strengthening supply chains is at the top of the agenda of many companies in order to reduce dependence on products and intermediate products from certain countries."
Only sustainable investments will continue to pay off
"The pandemic has led to so-called near-shoring gaining in importance in a range of industries," says André Bieri. The realignment of supply chains is becoming a central issue for many companies – be it through less dependence on supply chains from individual, dominant countries of origin, regionally oriented delivery models, customer proximity and a relocation of activities back to the domestic market, or an increase in production in Europe in general.
He sees the new focus of the companies as being instead on reliability, predictability and, above all, sustainability. In the post-Covid-19 era, sustainability would play an even greater role in investments than before: The investments made from now on must be climate-neutral solely on the basis of the expected future regulatory requirements and political decisions, otherwise they will not pay off. Accordingly, Switzerland must also position itself as a sustainable investment and business location and constantly review and adapt the corresponding framework conditions.
Information on the Survey
For the "EY Europe Attractiveness Survey," investment projects by foreign investors in Europe, which lead to the creation of new locations and new positions, were recorded; portfolio and M&A investments, on the other hand, are not taken into account. In addition, a qualitative survey of 550 decision-makers at internationally active companies was conducted, which took place in March and April 2021. This study is carried out and published annually.
- ends -
About the global EY organization
The global EY organization is a leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. We leverage our experience, knowledge and services to help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies all over the world. We are ideally equipped for this task — with well trained employees, strong teams, excellent services and outstanding client relations. Our global purpose is to drive progress and make a difference by building a better working world — for our people, for our clients and for our communities.
The global EY organization refers to all member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited (EYG). Each EYG member firm is a separate legal entity and has no liability for another such entity’s acts or omissions. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via ey.com/privacy. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.
EY’s organization is represented in Switzerland by Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, with 10 offices across Switzerland, and in Liechtenstein by Ernst & Young AG, Vaduz. In this publication, “EY” and “we” refer to Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited.