The UAE's foreign direct investment inflow grew by around 8 per cent last year over 2016 to reach $10.86bn amid declining inward investment across the West Asia region, the United Nation's Trade and Development (Unctad) body said in a report.
"FDI to six countries [Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE] rose but not sufficiently to help the subregion overcome the decline," said the latest World Investment Report (WIR), which tracks flows and stocks, mergers and acquisitions globally. Flow of FDI into the UAE was bolstered by "rising cross-border M&A sales", the report added.
The region's overall activity declined by around $5bn to reach $25.5bn in 2017. The fall in FDI flows to the region mirrors international trends. Global FDI fell by 23 per cent to $1.43 trillion last year, which the UN body handling trade, investment and development said was a result of a corresponding 22 per cent decline in cross-border mergers and acquisitions. The decline in FDI activity during this period came after inflated transaction volumes due to large one-off deals and corporate restructurings in 2016. Prospects for growth in FDI in the near future remain bleak with announced greenfield investment declining by 14 per cent, the report added.
The UAE, one of the better performers in the region, also saw outflows of FDI growing at a similar pace to inflows to reach around $14bn in 2017. The country announced last month that it would allow 100 per cent foreign ownership in businesses outside free zones in an effort to incentivise more FDI into the country. Saudi Arabia, the region's largest economy and biggest foreign investment recipient, saw FDI inflows slide by four-fifths in 2017 over the previous year to $1.42bn. The WIR suggested that was due to "significant divestments and negative intracompany loans by foreign MNEs [multinational enterprises]." Unctad cited Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell's sale of its 50 per cent interest in its Sadaf petrochemicals joint venture to Saudi Arabia's Sabic for $820 million as an example of such divestments.
Saudi Arabia’s share in total FDI inflows to West Asia collapsed from 53 per cent in 2009 to 27 per cent in 2015 and a mere 6 per cent in 2017, the report added. Its outflows also shrunk by around $3bn to reach $5.6bn during the same period.
FDI to Kuwait. the smallest beneficiary of foreign direct investment among the GCC states, shrunk by around $118m to reach $301m, while Oman and Bahrain received new inflows of $196m and $276m, which raised the total value of FDI to $1.86bn and $519m, respectively. Jordan also received an incremental boost of 7 per cent, around $100m, to take FDI inflows to $1.66bn in 2017. Iraq, the region's second-largest oil producer and which has seen capital flight during its battle with ISIS, saw its losses slow by around $1bn to $5bn from the estimated $6bn that exited the country in 2016.
The WIR said Turkey saw FDI activity contract due to political instability, which prompted downgrades of its sovereign ratings. FDI inflows dropped by $2bn to reach $10.8bn in 2017.