India received USD 64 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI) in 2020, the fifth largest recipient of inflows in the world, according to a UN report which said the COVID-19 second wave in the country weighs heavily on the country’s overall economic activities, but its strong fundamentals provide “optimism” for the medium term.
The World Investment Report 2021 by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), released Monday, said global FDI flows have been severely hit by the pandemic, and they plunged by 35 per cent in 2020 to USD 1 trillion from USD 1.5 trillion the previous year.
Lockdowns caused by COVID-19 around the world slowed down existing investment projects, and prospects of a recession led multinational enterprises (MNEs) to reassess new projects.
The report said in India, FDI increased 27 per cent to USD 64 billion in 2020 from USD 51 billion in 2019, pushed up by acquisitions in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, making the country the fifth largest FDI recipient in the world. The pandemic boosted demand for digital infrastructure and services globally.
This led to higher values of greenfield FDI project announcements targeting the ICT industry, rising by more than 22 per cent to USD 81 billion. Major project announcements in the ICT industry include a USD 2.8 billion investment by online retail giant Amazon in ICT infrastructure in India.
The report noted that the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in India weighs heavily on the country’s overall economic activities.
Announced greenfield projects in India contracted by 19 per cent to USD 24 billion, “and the second wave in April 2021 is affecting economic activities, which could lead to a larger contraction in 2021,” it said, adding that the outbreak in India severely hit main investment destinations such as Maharashtra, which is home to one of the biggest automotive manufacturing clusters (MumbaiPuneNasikAurangabad) and Karnataka (home to the Bengaluru tech hub), which face another lockdown as of April 2021, exposing the country to production disruption and investment delays.
“Yet India’s strong fundamentals provide optimism for the medium term. FDI to India has been on a long-term growth trend and its market size will continue to attract market-seeking investments. In addition, investment in the ICT industry is expected to keep growing,” the report said.
“Amid India’s struggle to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, robust investment through acquisitions in ICT (software and hardware) and construction bolstered FDI,” it said, adding that cross-border M&As surged 83 per cent to USD 27 billion, with major deals involving ICT, health, infrastructure and energy.
Large transactions included the acquisition of Jio Platforms by Jaadhu, a subsidiary of Facebook, for USD 5.7 billion, the acquisition of Tower Infrastructure Trust by Canada’s Brookfield Infrastructure and GIC (Singapore) for USD 3.7 billion and the sale of the electrical and automation division of Larsen & Toubro India for USD 2.1 billion.
“Investments from India are expected to stabilise in 2021, supported by the country’s resumption of free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European Union (EU) and its strong investment in Africa,” the report said. The report cautioned that while the Asian region has managed the health crisis relatively well, the recent second wave of COVID-19 in India shows that significant uncertainties remain.
“This has a major impact on prospects for South Asia. A wider resurgence of the virus in Asia
“Economies in East and South-East Asia, and India, will continue to attract foreign investment in high-tech industries, given their market size and their advanced digital and technology ecosystem,” the report said.