Investing

flag France France: Investing

In this page: FDI in Figures | What to consider if you invest in France | Protection of Foreign Investment | Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment | Office Real Estate and Land Ownership | Investment Aid | Investment Opportunities | Sectors Where Investment Opportunities Are Fewer | Finding Assistance For Further Information

 

FDI in Figures

According to the World Investment Report 2023 published by UNCTAD, France was the tenth-largest recipient of FDI in 2022, and the second in Europe, with a total of USD 36.4 billion, compared to USD 30.8 billion one year earlier (+17.9%), mainly due to large M&A deals (from USD 4.6 billion to USD 31 billion), in transportation and storage, information and communication, and finance and insurance. Greenfield projects announced in France reached USD 20 billion, up from USD 14 billion in 2021. In the same year, the stock of FDI reached USD 896.8 billion, around 32.2% of the country’s GDP. The countries holding the majority of FDI are the United States (18.3%), Switzerland (13.4%), Germany (12.3%), the United Kingdom (11.5%), Luxembourg (9.4%), and Belgium (6.7%); while in terms of sectors investments are mostly directed to manufacturing (29.1%), finance and insurance activities (25.7%), real estate (21.3%), wholesale and retail trade (7.4%), scientific, technical, and specialized activities (4.9% - data Banque de France). According to the latest figures from the OECD, in the first semester of 2023, FDI inflows reached USD 1.7 billion, as compared to USD 1.4 billion in the corresponding period one year earlier.

France is very open to foreign investments. Among its key assets are a well-educated populace, top-tier universities, and a skilled labour force. It possesses a contemporary business ethos, advanced financial markets, robust intellectual property rights enforcement, and a pioneering commercial landscape. Renowned for its exceptional infrastructure, France features high-speed passenger rail, numerous maritime ports, expansive roadway networks, a comprehensive public transportation system, and seamless intermodal connections. High-speed mobile coverage is widespread, with 5G now accessible in numerous major and mid-sized urban areas. On the other hand, France continues to grapple with longstanding obstacles for foreign investors, including labour costs, labour protections, social legislation, and administrative intricacies. However, the country’s innovation prowess, research capabilities, recent pro-business policies, and governmental initiatives toward ecological transition serve as compelling attractions for investors. Foreign ownership of companies in France faces no statutory constraints, except for specific sectors. However, acquisitions of domiciled companies or subsidiaries involved in critical sectors tied to France's national interests, public order, security, and defence, or engaged in R&D on critical or dual-use technologies for these sectors, require prior notification, review, and approval from the Minister of the Economy. Moreover, on December 28, 2023, the French government enacted decree number 2023-1293 and a corresponding administrative order, expanding the coverage of French FDI rules. The notable changes include extending the scope to control acquisitions of unincorporated "commercial establishments" in France owned by foreign companies, setting a permanent 10% voting rights triggering threshold for non-European Union and non-European Economic Area investors in French publicly-listed companies, broadening the covered activities to include critical raw materials extraction, processing, and recycling, as well as prison establishment security. Additionally, the new rules modify the list of critical technologies for R&D, replacing renewable energy with the broader low-carbon energy, and adding photonics.
France ranks 11th among the 132 economies on the Global Innovation Index 2023 and 57th out of 177 countries on the 2023 Index of Economic Freedom.

 
Foreign Direct Investment 202020212022
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 11,35930,88536,413
FDI Stock (million USD) 952,937944,763896,806
Number of Greenfield Investments* 590595614
Value of Greenfield Investments (million USD) 15,85213,95620,238

Source: UNCTAD, Latest data available.

Note: * Greenfield Investments are a form of Foreign Direct Investment where a parent company starts a new venture in a foreign country by constructing new operational facilities from the ground up.

 

FDI STOCKS BY COUNTRY AND BY INDUSTRY

Main Investing Countries 2020, in %
United States 18.3
Switzerland 13.4
Germany 12.3
United Kingdom 11.5
Luxembourg 9.4
Belgium 6.7
Netherlands 4.5
Italy 4.4
Spain 3.1
Main Invested Sectors 2020, in %
Manufacturing 29.1
Finance and insurance activities 25.7
Real Estate 21.3
Wholesale and retail trade 7.4
Scientific, technical and specialised activities 4.9
Information and communication 3.5
Construction 1.8

Source: Bank of France - Statistics extract, Latest data available.

 
Form of Company Preferred By Foreign Investors
SA: public limited company
Form of Establishment Preferred By Foreign Investors
The subsidiary
Main Foreign Companies
Consult some examples of successful investment projects in France (Invest in France).
Sources of Statistics
Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery
Business France

Return to top

What to consider if you invest in France

Strong Points

France is one of the top ten world economic powers and has many assets to attract foreign investors:

  • A strategic geographical location in the centre of Western Europe
  • A developed tertiary fabric (including tourism), a vast industrial base and strong agricultural production capacity
  • Leading infrastructure and quality public services
  • A skilled and productive workforce (2nd European country in terms of hourly productivity) and a dynamic demographics
  • An investment-friendly business environment and a relatively stable and transparent legal framework
  • A diversified economy that is full of a wide range of players ranging from large multinationals to high-tech start-ups (French tech).
Weak Points

The main obstacles to attracting FDI in the French economy are:

  • One of the highest corporate tax rates in the world
  • High cost of labour
  • Heaviness of the tax and work regimes
  • High unemployment rate (7.9% in 2021, INSEE) which particularly affects young people and older workers
  • Growing inequalities
  • High public spending fuelling already significant public debt (112.3% of GDP in 2021, IMF)
  • A low level of SMEs operating for export or investing in innovation
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI

Many reforms have emerged in recent years with the aim of revitalizing the national economy and attracting foreign investors. Here are the main ones: 

  • The number of administrative formalities for the establishment of foreign companies has been reduced. 
  • The establishment of a tax credit program of 20 billion EUR (competitiveness tax credit), the abolition of the solidarity tax and the creation of the research tax credit and incentives for young innovative companies. 
  • The reform of the labour legislation reinforcing vocational training and adding more flexibility to the labour market. 
  • The reduction of the corporate income tax rate from 33% to 25% by 2022.
  • Competitive taxation of research and temporary exemption arrangements for innovative start-ups and new businesses.
  • Foreign companies have access to the same subsidies as French companies (support for productive investment, R&D, vocational training, job creation, etc.).

Return to top

Protection of Foreign Investment

Bilateral Investment Conventions Signed By France
France has signed bilateral investment agreements with 115 countries.
To see the list, click here.
International Controversies Registered By UNCTAD
The ISDS Navigator contains information about known international arbitration cases initiated by investors against States pursuant to international investment agreements. France is involved in 51 cases as Home State of claimant and in 1 cases as Respondent State.
Organizations Offering Their Assistance in Case of Disagreement
ICCWBO , International court of arbitration, International chamber of commerce
ICSID , International Center for settlement of Investment Disputes
Member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency
France is a signatory to the Convention of the MIGA.
 
Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors France OECD United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 8.0 6.5 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 3.0 5.3 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 6.0 7.3 9.0 5.0

Source: The World Bank - Doing Business, Latest data available.

Return to top

Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment

Freedom of Establishment
Yes. The formal investment regime remains among the least restrictive in the world.
Acquisition of Holdings
Possible.
Obligation to Declare
All foreign investments must be declared to the French Central Bank (for statistical reasons). The majority of foreign investments must also be declared to the Public Treasury, which can check whether or not prior authorisation is required. In France, the FDI screening mechanism is based on the prior authorisation of the Minister of the Economy, the details of the procedure are specified in Article L151-3 of the French Monetary and Financial Code. The prior authorisation of the Minister of Economy is required for any foreign investment in an activity involving "sensitive industries" (e.g. energy, water supply and public health). A Decree dated November 29, 2018 that became effective on January 1, 2019 has enlarged the list of sectors in which foreign investments must be subject to prior authorization to include aerospace, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, semi-conductors, hosting of sensitive data. In particular, the law on the growth and transformation of businesses, known in France as the PACTE law, published in the Official Gazette on 23 May 2019, reshaped and extended the French prior authorisation procedure, granting the Minister of the Economy the powers of injunction. The PACTE law was supplemented by a decree and an order of 31 December 2019. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the control of foreign investments is being enhanced. New provisions have been adopted, resulting from a decree and order dated 22 July 2020, include both permanent and temporary measures aimed at protecting the most sensitive French companies.
Competent Organisation For the Declaration
General Directorate of the Treasury of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Recovery
Requests For Specific Authorisations
Some sectors are subject to procedures to obtain prior authorisation: gambling; private security; research and development activities on pathogenic or toxic agents; phone-tapping systems; information technologies; information systems security; goods and technologies with a dual use; means of cryptology in the digital economy; companies holding national defence secrets; the arms trade and companies, which have concluded a contract with the Ministry of Defence.

Return to top

Office Real Estate and Land Ownership

Possible Temporary Solutions
There are several temporary solutions: Instant Offices or Regus.
The Possibility of Buying Land and Industrial and Commercial Buildings
Foreign-registered or foreign-controlled entities are free to carry out real estate investments in France. It is possible to buy freehold or leasehold, to build industrial and commercial premises or to buy through a real estate company. Although it should very rarely apply to real estate investments in France, the Law on Growth and Transformation of Businesses (PACTE) of 23 May 2019 and the related decree of 31 December 2019 have strengthened and extended the procedure for prior authorisation of foreign investments in France (IEF), to better protect strategic sectors such as artificial intelligence or robotics.
Risk of Expropriation
An expropriation procedure entitles local or national public authorities to purchase assets for a planned transaction that is declared to be in the public interest. According to French law, foreign investors are entitled to adequate and promptly paid compensation if they are victims of expropriation.

Return to top

Investment Aid

Forms of Aid
Support from the French authorities comes in various forms: subsidized or interest-free loans, grants for physical investment projects and R&D, reduced real estate costs, tax exemptions, exemptions from employer social security contributions, tax credits, covering certain expenses (e.g. training costs for new employees, etc.), government guarantees and equity investments.
Privileged Domains
Job creation, regional development, the food industry domain, protection of the environment, aid for Research and Development, Competitiveness clusters.
Privileged Geographical Zones
Regions eligible for the EU regional development subsidies.
Regions concerned by the European Regional Development Fund.
Free-trade zones
Competitiveness clusters in France
Urban free zones in France (ZFU)
Public aid and funding organisations
 
 

Return to top

Investment Opportunities

The Key Sectors of the National Economy
Aerospace, automobile, food industry, pharmaceuticals, luxury and fashion industry, micro electrotechnology, logistics, health equipment.
High Potential Sectors
Biotechnologies, telecommunications, firm services, information and communication technologies,  environment.
Privatization Programmes
Electricity, gas, rail transport and postal services. The government has not recently announced plans to privatise any of the remaining state-owned enterprises, but it has drawn down its shareholdings in several companies.
Tenders, Projects and Public Procurement
BOAMP, French Public Procurements (in French)
Tenders Info, Tenders in France
Ted - European public markets, Business opportunities in the EU
MPF, Public markets and projects in France

Return to top

Sectors Where Investment Opportunities Are Fewer

Monopolistic Sectors
The French government still maintains legal monopolies in public service companies: the rail network (SNCF), public transport in Paris (RATP), tobacco manufacturing and distribution (Altaldis) nuclear plants (EDF), defence, the media, energy, air transportation, aerospace.

Return to top

Finding Assistance For Further Information

Investment Aid Agency
Business France (national agency supporting the international development of the French economy)
Other Useful Resources
Bpifrance (The French Public Investment Bank)
Guichet Entreprises (French government agency)
Les-Aides.fr (Online guide on support  to businesses)
Doing Business Guides
Invest in France
Doing business in France (Guide by Thomson Reuters Practical Law)
Doing Business in France (Trade Commissioner Service, Government of Canada)
France's foreign investment regime (Pinsent Masons)
 
 
 
 

Return to top

Any Comment About This Content? Report It to Us.

 

© eexpand, All Rights Reserved.
Latest Update: February 2024