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In this page: FDI in Figures | What to consider if you invest in Ireland | 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

Ireland is an attractive destination for investment but inflows are highly volatile as they are dependent on the activities of large multinational companies that are present in the country. According to UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2021, FDI inflows fell sharply by 59%, from USD 81 billion in 2019 to USD 33 billion in 2020, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The main cause has been a fall in intracompany loans from USD 24 billion in 2019 to - USD 69 billion in 2020. Nevertheless, Ireland ranks 8th in terms of FDI inflows in 2020. The stock of FDI reached USD 1,350 billion in 2020. According to OECD data, Ireland’s inward FDI flows were negative in Q1 2021 (USD -8.75 billion) but rebounded to USD 7.26 billion during the second quarter of 2021. The United States is by far the largest investor in Ireland, followed by Luxembourg, offshore centres, Switzerland and the UK. FDI flows mainly target manufacturing, financial intermediation, IT and administrative services (Central Statistics Office). The structure of FDI is changing, as low-value activities are being replaced by R&D and high-end services (engineering, information and communication technologies, pharmaceuticals, medical technologies).

The business climate is favourable, as the country is ranked among the top 25 countries in the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 report (24th out of 190 countries). However, this represents a drop of 7 places compared to 2018 ranking. A change in the processes needed to register property makes it more difficult to do business. According to the Investment Promotion Agency of Ireland (IDA), more than 29,000 jobs were created through FDI in 2021, despite the economic crisis. In 2021, the agency announced a new five-year strategy, which aims to create 800 investments and 50,000 new jobs, focusing on five pillars: growth, transformation, regions, sustainability and impact. Among the country's assets are an attractive tax and legal framework, a skilled and multicultural labour force, and strong ties with the United States. Ireland is also the only English-speaking country of the euro zone.

 
Foreign Direct Investment 201920202021
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 149,43380,87115,702
FDI Stock (million USD) 1,212,7891,346,8081,362,510
Number of Greenfield Investments* 228246284
Value of Greenfield Investments (million USD) 11,27410,2808,828

Source: UNCTAD, Latest available data.

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 FDI FLOWS BY INDUSTRY

Main Investing Countries 2019, in %
United States 21.6
European Offshore Centres 12.8
Netherlands 8.8
Switzerland 8.5
Luxembourg 6.7
United Kingdom 4.0
France 2.2
Spain 1.3
Main Invested Sectors 2019, in %
Manufacturing 39.0
Financial intermediation 20.7
Information and communication 14.6
Chemicals 13.8
Administrative and support activities 6.9
Wholesale and retail trade, repairs of motor vehicles 4.7

Source: Central Statistics Office - Latest available data.

 
Main Foreign Companies
As of Jan 2020, Ireland welcomed over 1,500 international companies employing a combined total of over 250,000 people in Ireland. Examples include Intel, Yahoo, Adobe, Apple, etc.
Sources of Statistics
Central Statistics Office

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What to consider if you invest in Ireland

Strong Points

Ireland's strong points include:

  • Strong and tightly knit industrial and tertiary fabric
  • One of the lowest corporate tax rate in Europe
  • Young, skilled and multilingual workforce
  • Competitive economy, with pro-business government policies and regulators
  • Modern infrastructure
  • One of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe
  • Strong and stable domestic demand, notably thanks to high wages and living standards.
Weak Points

Ireland's weak points in term of FDI attractiveness include:

  • The economy is voluntarily very open internationally and therefore highly dependent on the European economy (especially on the UK) as well as the strategies of multinationals that are currently attracted by favourable taxation
  • The economy is highly dependent on the activities of  multinationals: their offshore business, mainly in the form of contract to manufacture abroad, accounts for a quarter of GDP and has a great deal of weight in the labour market
  • Exposure to the consequences of Brexit
  • High labor and operating costs
  • Internal market is relatively small and is under increasing pressure on labour costs
  • Banking sector remains vulnerable to shocks and the level of public and private debt remains high.
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI
For years, the Irish Government has actively promoted foreign direct investment (FDI). Ireland provides an attractive taxation framework for foreign investors and has one of the lowest taxation rates in the European Union. This strategy has fuelled robust economic growth since the late 1990s.

More recently, the Government has focused on Ireland’s international competitiveness by encouraging companies with foreign investments to increase their research and development (R&D) activities and to provide goods and services with higher added value. The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU (Brexit) leaves Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the EU, an asset for the country.

Several state organisations promote investment inflows:

The Irish government provides aid grants through its investment organizations, which will only pay grant aid after the foreign investors have achieved externally audited performance targets.

The government has invested heavily in ambitious programs to attract the best researchers specialised in business. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the state science agency that has been responsible for administering Ireland’s R&D funding.
In the same vein, by investing in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the state seeks to attract entrepreneurs to Ireland who wish to create start-ups with a strong international orientation.

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Protection of Foreign Investment

Bilateral Investment Conventions Signed By Ireland
To see the list of investment treaties signed by Ireland, consult UNCTAD's International Investment Agreements Navigator.
International Controversies Registered By UNCTAD
Refer to UNCTAD's Investment Dispute Settlement Navigator.
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
Ireland is a signatory of the MIGA convention.
 
Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors Ireland OECD United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 9.0 6.5 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 8.0 5.3 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 9.0 7.3 9.0 5.0

Source: Doing Business - Latest available data.

Note: *The Greater the Index, the More Transparent the Conditions of Transactions. **The Greater the Index, the More the Manager is Personally Responsible. *** The Greater the Index, the Easier it Will Be For Shareholders to Take Legal Action.

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Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment

Freedom of Establishment
Foreign companies and investors have the same rights as local ones. In fact, the Irish investment regime remains among the least restrictive in the world.
Acquisition of Holdings
Foreign and local investors enjoy the same rights. In case of state-owned Irish companies, however, residents may be given priority in share allocations over all other investors.
Obligation to Declare
A formal screening process for foreign investment in Ireland is still being developed. Any company incorporated abroad that establishes a branch in Ireland must file register with the Companies Registration Office. The registration must take place within one month of the establishment of the branch in the country.
Competent Organisation For the Declaration
IDA
Companies Registration Office
Requests For Specific Authorisations
Potential investors are required to examine the environmental impact of the proposed project and to meet with Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials.

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Office Real Estate and Land Ownership

Possible Temporary Solutions
Companies can temporarily rent a fully equipped office on various online sites: Instant Offices, CoWorker, Irish Office Space, etc.
The Possibility of Buying Land and Industrial and Commercial Buildings
Citizens of countries other than Ireland and other EU member states can acquire land for private residential purposes and for industrial purposes. Under Section 45 of the Land Act, 1965, all non-EU nationals must obtain the written consent of the Land Commission before acquiring an interest in agricultural land, though there are many stud farms and racing facilities in Ireland that are owned by foreign nationals. There are no restrictions on the acquisition of urban land.
Risk of Expropriation
Private property is normally expropriated only for public purposes in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of international law. State condemnations of private property are carried out in accordance with recognized principles of due process.

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Investment Aid

Forms of Aid
Grant aid to investors may be given for capital equipment, land, buildings, training, and R&D. Such grants will be paid by the Irish investment organizations only after the foreign investors have achieved externally audited performance targets (generally related to criteria such as employment creation, sales, profitability, exports, etc.).
Privileged Domains
The government strategy is aimed at increasing the number of workers in technology-intensive, high-value sectors.
Privileged Geographical Zones
IDA Ireland supported the construction of business parks in counties Galway and Louth, especially for the biotechnology sector.
Free-trade zones
The Shannon duty-free Processing Zone: companies operating in the Shannon Free Zone are entitled to the following benefits: goods imported from non-EU countries for storage, handling or processing are duty-free; no duty on goods exported from Shannon to non- EU countries; no time limit on disposal of goods held duty-free; minimum customs documentation and formalities; no Value Added Tax (VAT) on imported goods, including capital equipment; choice of having import duty on non-EU product calculated on its landing value or selling-out price. Foreign-owned firms in the Shannon Free Zone have the same investment opportunities as indigenous Irish companies.
IDA Ireland actively encourages investment in regions outside the two main urban centers of Dublin and Cork. For detailed information, consult Enterprise Ireland's Regional Plan.
Public aid and funding organisations

European Regional Development Fund
IDA Ireland
Enterprise Ireland
Udaras na Gaeltachta
 
 

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Investment Opportunities

The Key Sectors of the National Economy
Household and consumer goods; drugs and pharmaceuticals; electrical power systems; building products, franchising, medical equipment, computer software, information and communication technologies, agricultural sector.
High Potential Sectors
Advanced manufacturing projects in information and communication technologies (ICTs), pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals, medical technologies, engineering and consumer products.
High value-added international services, software, video games, shared services and customer support activities.
Privatization Programmes
Ireland does not have a formal privatisation program at the moment. However, the government is reducing its participation in the banking sector, and measures were taken to open the employment services, bus transport and water sectors. The Irish government previously declared it may sell the electricity generating arm of Electric Ireland as well as some non-strategic elements of the gas supply company Ervia, but no plan has been implemented yet.
Tenders, Projects and Public Procurement
Etenders, Irish Public Tenders
Tenders Info, Tenders in Ireland
Ted - Tenders Electronic daily, Business opportunities in EU 27

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Sectors Where Investment Opportunities Are Fewer

Monopolistic Sectors
Several state-owned enterprises operate in the energy, broadcasting, and transportation sectors. However, all of them are open to competition for market share.

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Latest Update: November 2022