Inward foreign affiliates statistics
Data extracted in July 2019.
Planned article update: November 2021.
In 2016, foreign-controlled enterprises accounted for 1.2 % of the 22.8 million enterprises that were active within the EU’s non-financial business economy.
In 2016, at least one tenth of the total value added in the non-financial business economies of each EU Member State was generated by foreign-controlled enterprises.
The manufacture of tobacco products, pharmaceuticals and coke & refined petroleum products were the only three activities where more than half of the EU’s value added in 2016 was generated by foreign-controlled enterprises.
Globalisation patterns in EU trade and investment is an online Eurostat publication presenting a summary of recent European Union (EU) statistics on economic aspects of globalisation, focusing on patterns of EU trade and investment.
Structural business statistics on inward foreign affiliates provide information that may be used to measure the impact of globalisation, for example, through indicators covering turnover (sales), employment, productivity or innovation performance. The statistics presented in this article concern activities within the non-financial business economy, as defined by NACE Sections B-N (except Section K) and Division 95.
Statistics on foreign affiliates
For statistical purposes, foreign affiliates are considered to be enterprises resident in one country which are controlled by a unit resident in another. There are two distinct sources of information: so-called inward FATS which cover the activities of enterprises within the EU that are under foreign control, and outward FATS which cover the activities of EU affiliates abroad.
The globalised economy is increasingly characterised by intricate business networks. As a result, it can be difficult to untangle these complicated and often blurred chains of control. To do so, statistics on foreign affiliates are compiled according to the ultimate controlling institutional unit (UCI) — determined by proceeding up a foreign affiliate’s chain of control until there is no further controlling interest; by doing so, potential double-counting of the same affiliates (by several countries) can be avoided. In this context, control refers to the ability to determine the general policy of an enterprise by choosing, for example, appropriate directors. In practice, control is often difficult to determine and so the share of ownership is often used as a proxy. In this way, an enterprise is said to be controlled by an institutional unit when the latter (a single investor or group of associated investors acting in concert (together)) owns — directly or indirectly — more than half of its voting power or ordinary shares.
Foreign-controlled enterprises in the EU
One of the most striking aspects concerning foreign-controlled enterprises is their very small absolute number
In 2016, foreign-controlled enterprises accounted for just 1.2 % of the 22.8 million enterprises that were active within the EU’s non-financial business economy. Approximately twice as many of these were ultimately controlled by a unit from one of the other EU Member States (0.8 % of the total enterprise population) as were ultimately controlled by a unit from non-member countries (0.4 %). As such, geographical proximity would appear to be an important determining factor when foreign investors consider their options — perhaps reflecting some caution to first invest in nearby markets (which may also be culturally and/or linguistically close) before considering investments further afield (both geographically or culturally). Indeed, the attractiveness of different countries can often be linked to proximity, historical, cultural or linguistic ties with, for example, a high proportion of the foreign-controlled enterprises in Ireland and the United Kingdom ultimately controlled by units from the United States.
The contribution of foreign-controlled enterprises to economic performance was much greater, both in terms of employment and, in particular, value added, than in terms of the number of enterprises. This may be explained, at least in part, by foreign-controlled enterprises generally being much larger in size than domestic (or nationally-controlled) enterprises. In 2016, foreign-controlled enterprises provided work to almost one in six (15.3 %) persons that were employed within the EU’s non-financial business economy; their share of total value added was considerably higher, as foreign-controlled enterprises contributed one quarter (25.0 %) of the EU total.
In 2016, non-member countries controlled more than half of the foreign enterprises in Slovenia and the United Kingdom
In 2016, almost three tenths (29.7 %) of all enterprises in the non-financial business economy in Luxembourg and nearly a quarter (24.5 %) of the enterprise population in Estonia were foreign-controlled; these shares were considerably higher than in any of the other Member States, as the next highest share was in Poland (9.8 %). At the other end of the range, the share of foreign-controlled enterprises in the total enterprise population was less than 1.0 % in France, Malta, Slovakia, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, Greece and Belgium, where the lowest share was recorded (0.1 %).
More than four fifths of the foreign-controlled enterprises in Slovakia (83.2 %) and Greece (81.9 %) were ultimately controlled by a unit from one of the other EU Member States in 2016. At the other end of the range, just over half of the foreign-controlled enterprises in Malta (53.2 %) were controlled by a unit from another Member State, and this share fell below a half in Slovenia (46.2 %) and the United Kingdom (41.8 %).
In 2016, two fifths of the non-financial business economy workforce of Luxembourg was employed by a foreign-controlled enterprise
As seen for the number of enterprises, Luxembourg recorded the highest share in 2016 — among the EU Member States — of its non-financial business economy workforce employed by foreign-controlled enterprises (39.9 %); note also that there is a sizeable financial services sector in Luxembourg and that this too is characterised by a strong international presence (although data are not available for these financial enterprises). Estonia also had a high share (37.8 %) of its non-financial business economy workforce employed by foreign-controlled enterprises (see Figure 1).
There were a further five EU Member States where foreign-controlled enterprises accounted for more than a quarter of the non-financial business economy workforce in 2016 — Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Czechia and Hungary — all of which were characterised by relatively low wage costs and high numbers of people working for foreign-controlled enterprises in the manufacturing sector, often controlled by units from other Member States.
Ireland and the United Kingdom were the only EU Member States where a majority of those working for foreign-controlled enterprises in 2016 were employed by an enterprise that was controlled from outside the EU.
Foreign-controlled enterprises and value added
Foreign-controlled enterprises generated more than half of the value added in the Hungarian non-financial business economy in 2016
In 2016, at least one tenth of the total value added in the non-financial business economies of each of the EU Member States was generated by foreign-controlled enterprises. Relatively low shares were recorded in Cyprus (13.4 %), Italy (15.8 %), Greece (16.3 %) and France (16.4 %), while half of the Member States had shares within the range of 20-30 %. In Bulgaria and Latvia around one third of total value added was generated by foreign-controlled enterprises, a share that was exceeded in Poland and Estonia and rose to more than two fifths in Ireland, Czechia, Romania and Luxembourg. In Slovakia, foreign-controlled enterprises accounted for nearly half (48.1 %) of total value added in the non-financial business economy, and in Hungary this share reached 51.4 %, indicating that foreign-controlled enterprises were responsible for the majority of value added within the Hungarian non-financial business economy in 2016.
Some 13.4 % of the total value added in the EU’s non-financial business economy in 2016 could be attributed to enterprises ultimately controlled by units from other EU Member States
Figure 2 shows a split between the contributions of foreign-controlled enterprises from other EU Member States (intra-EU) and foreign-controlled enterprises from non-member countries (extra-EU) to total value added in the non-financial business economy. Across the whole of the EU, one quarter (25.0 %) of total value added was generated by foreign-controlled enterprises; a slightly higher share (13.4 %) came from enterprises whose ultimate control lay in other Member States, while the share for enterprises whose ultimate control lay outside the EU was 11.6 %; the remaining 75.0 % of total value added was generated by enterprises controlled from within the domestic economy.
In Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Romania, more than three quarters of the value added generated by foreign-controlled enterprises could be attributed to those enterprises whose ultimate control lay in other EU Member States. By contrast, there were only two Member States — Ireland (81.4 %) and the United Kingdom (61.8 %) — where a majority of the value added created by foreign-controlled enterprises was generated by enterprises whose ultimate control lay outside the EU.
In 2016, German foreign affiliates accounted for more than one fifth of the total value added generated by EU enterprises that were ultimately controlled by units from other EU Member States
The information presented so far has already underlined the relatively strong ties that exist in terms of the control of foreign affiliates by a unit from one EU Member State in another one, in other words, within the EU. In 2016, the total value added generated in the EU’s non-financial business economy by enterprises that were ultimately controlled by units from other EU Member States was EUR 958 billion; this was EUR 128 billion higher than the value added created by enterprises in the EU that were ultimately controlled by units from outside the EU.
More than one fifth (20.9 %) of the total value added generated by foreign affiliates that were ultimately controlled by units from other EU Member States could be attributed to enterprises controlled by units from Germany, while the next highest shares were recorded for affiliates that were ultimately controlled by units from France (16.1 %), the Netherlands (13.1 %) and the United Kingdom (12.2 %). It is interesting to note that these French, Dutch and British controlled foreign affiliates accounted for a higher share of total value added than their corresponding share of employment, while the opposite was true for German foreign affiliates (see Figure 3).
In 2016, the total value added generated in the EU’s non-financial business economy by enterprises controlled by units from outside the EU was EUR 830 billion. Of this, more than half (52.6 %) could be attributed to enterprises that were ultimately controlled by units located in the United States, while Switzerland (13.7 %) was the only other country to record a double-digit share; the next highest shares were recorded for enterprises whose ultimate control was located in Japan (8.0 %) or in offshore financial centres (6.5 %)  — see Figure 4.
EU workforce and foreign-controlled enterprises
In 2016, American-controlled enterprises accounted for almost half (48.5 %) of the EU workforce employed by enterprises that were ultimately controlled by units from outside the EU. Swiss foreign affiliates accounted for the second highest share (16.3 %) of the EU’s non-financial business economy workforce employed by foreign-controlled enterprises whose ultimate control lay outside the EU, while the third and fourth highest shares were recorded by offshore financial centres (10.7 %) and Japan (9.0 %).
Foreign-controlled enterprises by economic activity
The manufacture of tobacco products, pharmaceuticals, and coke and refined petroleum products were the only three activities where more than half of the EU’s value added in 2016 was generated by foreign-controlled enterprises
Figure 5 analyses the role that foreign affiliates play across different economic activities within the EU’s non-financial business economy. It shows that in 2016 the presence of foreign affiliates was often relatively high in areas characterised by oligopolies (for example, the manufacture of tobacco products), or high-technology manufacturing (such as the manufacture if pharmaceuticals, chemicals and motor vehicles) and knowledge-intensive services (such as information and communication services). By contrast, the presence of foreign-controlled enterprises was often much lower in construction and a number of (regulated) services, for example, only a small proportion of the total value added generated by legal and accounting activities in the EU was attributed to foreign-controlled enterprises.
Table 1 presents an analysis for some of the activities where foreign affiliates were most prominent. In 2016, among the foreign-controlled enterprises whose ultimate control was located outside the EU, the highest share of the workforce in these activities was almost exclusively accounted for by enterprises that were ultimately controlled by units from the United States; the only exception was air transport services where a higher share of the workforce was employed by enterprises ultimately controlled by units from offshore financial centres (2015 data). For most of these activities with a high contribution of valued added from foreign affiliates, Switzerland was nearly always the second or third most common location of control outside of the EU, the exceptions being the manufacture of paper and paper products as well as the manufacture of motor vehicles. Japan also figured frequently in the top three, taking second place for the manufacture of tobacco products and the manufacture of motor vehicles.
Foreign-controlled enterprises: intra-mural R & D expenditure
More than one quarter of the expenditure on intra-mural R & D that took place within the EU’s industry and construction sectors in 2015 was accounted for by foreign-controlled enterprises
Although corporate research and development (R & D) activities often remain highly concentrated close to headquarters of multinational enterprises, there is some evidence to suggest that foreign-controlled enterprises in the EU may be more R & D intensive than their nationally-owned competitors. Indeed, foreign-controlled enterprises are seen as an integral part of some national innovation systems, as the research activities of large multinationals can potentially benefit host nations by promoting knowledge and technology transfers.
In 2015, foreign-controlled enterprises accounted for just over one quarter (27.7 %) of intra-mural R & D expenditure within the industrial and construction sectors (NACE Sections B-F) of 19 EU Member States (see Figure 6 for data availability), and a slightly higher share (30.1 %) of the total number of R & D personnel (see Figure 7). To put these figures into context, approximately one quarter of the value added that was generated within industry and construction for the same 19 Member States was attributed to foreign-controlled enterprises, while their share of the industry and construction workforce was less than one fifth.
In Romania (2013 data), Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, the United Kingdom (2013 data), Czechia and Austria, more than half of the expenditure on intra-mural R & D that took place in industry and construction in 2015 was accounted for by foreign-controlled enterprises, while in all of these EU Member States except for Austria, a majority of R & D personnel also worked for a foreign-controlled enterprise.
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
- The full list of offshore financial centres includes: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Aruba, Barbados, Bahrain, Bermuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cook Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, St Kitts and Nevis, Cayman Islands, Lebanon, Saint Lucia, Liechtenstein, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Mauritius, Nauru, Niue, Panama, Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa. For the purpose of this publication, information for Hong Kong and Singapore is shown separately and hence these two countries are generally excluded from the offshore financial centres aggregate (unless otherwise specified).
- Structural business statistics (sbs), see:
- Foreign controlled EU enterprises - inward FATS (fats)
- Foreign controlled EU enterprises - inward FATS (fats) (ESMS metadata file — fats_esms)
Further methodological information