Russian economy attracting a growing number of foreign investors

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  • Foreign investors put up capital in 238 projects in 2017 – a record number for Russia since the launch of the survey in 2010.
  • Asian countries showed strong interest in the Russian economy: China became the leader by the number of FDI projects for the first time, with Japan and South Korea also among Russia’s top 10 investors.
  • Manufacturing was the sector boasting the largest number of FDI projects.
  • The regions are becoming increasingly attractive to investors – rising FDI flows channeled to Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Primorsky Krai, Lipetsk and Belgorod oblasts.

Foreign investors put up capital in a record number of projects in Russia in 2017 – 238, which was 33 projects more than the year before. This represents 16% growth, a striking improvement compared with only 2% growth in 20161. Those are the findings of EY’s latest European Attractiveness Survey - Russia.

Like in 2016, foreign investors focused on the construction of new manufacturing facilities in Russia (202 projects), rather than business expansion (36 projects).

Manufacturing is the leading industry

Alexander Ivlev, EY Country Managing Partner for Russia, commented: "The manufacturing industry once again proved to be the most attractive industry for FDI in the Russian economy, gaining 127 new projects, or 18 more than the year before. Last year, the number of projects in the power industry grew by more than 50%, from 15 in 2016 to 26 in 2017. The number of projects in the finance and business services sector more than doubled, from four to 10 in 2017. The transport and communications sector remained almost the same with 31 projects in 2017. Agriculture slowed somewhat with 38 projects in 2017 against 41 projects in 2016."

The unquestionable leader among all manufacturing industries is pharmaceuticals with 35 projects. The machinery and equipment sector is number two with 21 projects. In addition, foreign investors heavily invested in the chemical and plastic products sector (19 projects). Mineral reserves and metals saw positive growth in 2017 with the number of projects having increased by four and three, respectively. The digital technologies sector grew to seven projects against only one in 2016. The electrical equipment sector halved with seven FDI projects vs. 2016.

Foreign Investors

Alexander Ivlev, EY Country Managing Partner for Russia, commented: "Last year saw a remarkable trend – strengthening interest of Asian countries in the Russian economy and their growing presence, which more than doubled in 2017 – from just 30 projects in 2016 to 76 last year. China took the lead for the first time, boosting the number of its FDI projects by more than three and a half times, from nine in 2016 to 32 in 2017. This is the largest number of projects financed by Chinese investors since the launch of the survey. "

South Korea, with 12 projects, became one of Russia’s top 10 investors in 2017, for the first time since the launch of the survey. This compares with only two in 2016. Japanese investors kept up with the upward trend, financing 17 projects last year versus 12 in 2016.

West European countries demonstrated different levels of investment activity in Russia in 2017. Germany, which had ranked first by the number of new projects in 2015 and 2016, lost the lead, funding only 28 projects last year versus 43 in 2016. France followed suit, reducing the number of its new projects from 20 to 11 over last year.

Unlike them, Italian investments were on the rise, with 17 new projects in Russia, on par with the Japanese. Switzerland also boosted its presence in Russia by investing in 11 projects last year compared with seven in 2016. The UK put up capital in eight projects in 2017 versus two in 2016 and thus became one of the ten largest investors in Russia.

Finland ranked tenth among Russia’s top investors, with seven projects in both 2016 and 2017.

After record growth in 2016, the US slowed investment activity in Russia, reducing the number of projects by half, from 38 to 19. Yet, the US ranked third among the ten largest FDI providers for Russia.

Regions becoming increasingly attractive to investors

Moscow and Moscow Oblast remained the most attractive to investors in 2017, with 54 projects here (2016: 49). In 2017 a significant number of those projects (10) comprised investments in the pharmaceuticals industry. The leader in investing in the Moscow region was Germany (10 projects) followed by China (six projects). US and Swiss companies invested in four projects each.

St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast are number two with 17 FDI projects vs. 15 projects in 2016. Of those, Finnish investors finance three projects. German, Israeli and US companies support two projects each.

Alexander Ivlev commented: "Based on the 2017 results, many Russian regions demonstrated positive growth. In Tatarstan, the number of FDI projects doubled from seven to 14, of which three are financed by US investors. China and Turkey invested in two projects each.

Primorsky Krai also showed significant growth, with the number of new projects increasing in 2017 from seven to 12. Interest predominantly came from Asian investors, with three projects financed by investors from mainland China, while Japanese, South Korean and Hong Kong companies invested in two projects each, and businesses from India and Cambodia invested in one project each."

With nine FDI projects, Lipetsk Oblast made it to the top ten regions in 2017 (only two projects in 2016). All of them were financed by European investors except two projects supported by US companies.

Several Russian regions raised FDI for five projects each: Bashkortostan, Belgorod, Vladimir, Novosibirsk and Ulyanovsk oblasts, and Stavropol Krai. Bashkortostan was the only region in Russia which attracted investors from Vietnam. Two projects in the food sector were financed by Vietnamese companies. Three out of five projects in Belgorod were launched by German investors. In 2016 only two projects were underway in Belgorod and none in Bashkortostan.

The situation is the reverse in Kaluga Oblast, which was number two in 2016. In 2017 the number of FDI projects declined from 15 to seven, investors being only from Europe.


1By excluding portfolio investments and M&A, the survey reflects real investments in manufacturing and services by foreign companies across Europe (see Methodology)

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