Microsoft and Amazon among global investors committing $16bn in FDI to France

Global corporate CEOs as well as some wealth funds from the Middle East are attending investment summit in Paris

President Emmanuel Macron hosted 180 chief executives at Versailles for the seventh 'Choose France' summit on Monday. Photo: Unsplash
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France received €15 billion ($16.2 billion) in investment commitments amid announcements as companies including Microsoft, Amazon and Pfizer, as well as financial institutions such as JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, look to boost their presence in EU's second-largest economy.

Foreign direct investment topped the €13 billion in commitments the French economy received from global investors last year as President Emmanuel Macron hosted 180 chief executives at the Chateau de Versailles for the “Choose France” summit.

Corporate leaders and institutional investors, as well as some of the top sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East, were among those that gathered in Paris on Monday.

In its seventh iteration, the summit is part of the French government’s efforts for green re-industrialising and instituting regulatory reforms to bring in more FDI, as France looks to establish itself as centre of commerce and finance in the European bloc.

France has received investment commitments for 56 projects across sectors, which were unveiled by Mr Macron during his keynote address on Monday evening.

“I want to thank you for your trust and for these [investment] decision,” he said. “These projects bring a lot more than just investments in the economy.”

Microsoft led the pack of investors with a €4 billion announcement to develop its artificial intelligence and cloud infrastructure in France.

The company will also help in training a million people and extend support to 2,500 AI start-ups until 2027 in France as part of its investment commitment, it said.

This is the latest AI investment by the US company. This year, Microsoft joined France’s Mistral AI in a €15 billion, multi-year deal to help accelerate its development.

In April, Microsoft also announced a $1.5 billion investment in Abu Dhabi’s AI company G42 to advance its global AI ambitions.

Amazon has also laid out plans to invest €1.2 billion on infrastructure and computing, while pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Sanofi are also investing €500 million and €1 billion, respectively, the Elysee Palace announced earlier.

Morgan Stanley is also expanding its European campus in the French capital, featuring a global research centre, Bloomberg quoted French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as saying on Saturday.

First Abu Dhabi Bank, the biggest UAE bank by assets, and Nigeria’s Zenith Bank are also set to open offices in Paris. The move will help French companies invest in the GCC and in English-speaking Africa, the minister added.

Mr Le Maire also hosted a lunch on Monday with global bankers, including top bosses from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, as well as private equity company KKR.

Morgan Stanley, which has already increased its Paris staff to about 400 from 150 since 2021, and will add 100 more people across all of its Paris divisions, including its research and development centre, Bloomberg quoted a Morgan Stanley representative as saying.

The new investment announcements are expected to significantly boost jobs in France; the 28 projects announced last year accounted for more than 8,000.

The Inaugural Choose France summit in 2018 received €2.1 billion in FDI pledges for 10 projects, and even during Covid in 2020, the country received €607 million in FDI commitments.

The scale has risen steadily since to almost €10.8 billion in 2022, according to government data.

France has instituted tax reforms and is pushing to simplify the business environment to attract FDI.

It is focused on re-industrialising the economy, with major investments in making green batteries and hydrogen, as well as artificial intelligence, which are central planks of the country’s innovation policy.

Paris, which is trying to lower national debt and boost growth momentum, is pursuing the France 2030 Investment Plan, an overarching agenda that aims to attract €54 billion in FDI by the end of this decade.

“This is the fifth year we are the number one in terms of attractiveness [for investment in Europe] … because for the first we had to work hard, after that we delivered and then we maintained,” Mr Macron said.

“This is, for me, the best evidence … that our reforms and our agenda are producing results.”

Mr Macron, a former Rothschild investment banker, also held a series of private investment roundtable meetings with chief executives of several private companies on Monday, according to Elysee Palace officials.

One private session focused on the AI and quantum investment opportunities in France, while the other presented investment in the decarbonisation sector to global investors.

Mr Macron also attended a private session with top executives from Indian companies.

He held bilateral meetings with chief executive of Novartis, Vasan Narasimhan, chief executive of Svolt Energy Hongxin Yang, and Lakshmi Mittal, top boss of ArcelorMittal.

Heads of private sector companies, as well as sovereign wealth funds from the broader Middle East, especially the GCC, also have a strong showing at the Chateau de Versailles on Monday.

Chief executives of the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Qatar Investment Authority, Kuwait Investment Authority, Bahrain’s Mumtalakat, representatives of Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain-based alternative investment company Investcorp are among those attending the summit, according to the French officials.

They also attended some of the private sessions, including two with Mr Macron on AI and quantum investing as well as in the green energy sector.

France has deep trade, economic and political ties with Arab nations in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, especially with oil-exporting countries in the GCC.

Bilateral trade between the UAE and France reached €7 billion last year and is expected to increase further this year amid the deepening of investment and trade ties between the two countries, France’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, Franck Riester, told The National in February.

The two countries also launched UAE-France Business Council in 2022, which is jointly led by Dr Sultan Al Jaber, managing director and group chief executive of Adnoc and chairman of Masdar, and Patrick Pouyanne, chairman and chief executive of France’s TotalEnergies.

The council is made up of 18 chief executives selected for their interest in strengthening investments between the two countries and held its second meeting this year in Paris.

Beyond the UAE, Paris has also managed to secure investment commitments from other GCC countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, QIA announced its intent to “anchor” an investment commitment in Ardian Semiconductor, reflecting the goal of enhancing the semiconductor industry in France and Europe.

“This investment demonstrates QIA’s position as the financial partner of choice in key technology sub-sectors, including semiconductor and semiconductor supply chain,” QIA said in a statement.

In February, Qatar announced more than $10 billion in investments in French start-ups and investment funds.

Last year, Saudi Arabia and France also signed 24 agreements worth $2.9 billion at the France-Saudi Investment Forum in sectors including clean energy, manufacturing, aviation, energy and health care, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency said at the time.

Updated: May 14, 2024, 7:03 AM