Foreign Direct Investment
1 Recognize current trends regarding foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world economy.
3 Understand how political ideology shapes a government’s attitudes toward FDI.
4 Describe the benefits and costs of FDI to home and host countries.
5 Explain the range of policy instruments that governments use to influence FDI.
6 Identify the implications for managers of the theory and government policies associated with FDI.
opening case Foreign Retailers in India
For years now, there has been intense debate in India about the wisdom of relaxing the country’s restrictions on foreign direct investment into its retail sector. The Indian retailing sector is highly fragmented and dominated by small enterprises. Estimates suggest that barely 6 percent of India’s almost $500 billion in retail sales take place in organized retail establishments. The rest takes place in small shops, most of which are unincorporated businesses run by individuals or households. In contrast, organized retail establishments account for more than 20 percent of sales in China, 36 percent of sales in Brazil, and 85 percent of all retail sales in the United States. In total, retail establishments in India employ some 34 million people, accounting for more than 7 percent of the workforce.
Advocates of opening up retailing in India to large foreign enterprises such as Walmart, Carrefour, and Tesco, make a number of arguments. They believe that foreign retailers can be a positive force for improving the efficiency of India’s distribution systems. Companies like Walmart and Tesco are experts in supply chain management. Applied to India, such know-how could take significant costs out of the economy. Logistics costs are around 14 percent of GDP in India, much higher than the 8 percent in the United States. While this is partly due to a poor road system, it is also the case that most distribution is done by small trucking enterprises, often with a single truck, that have few economies of scale or scope. Large foreign retailers tend to establish their own trucking operations and can reap significant gains from tight control of their distribution system.
Foreign retailers will also probably make major investments in distribution infrastructure such as cold storage facilities and warehouses. Currently, there is a chronic lack of cold storage facilities in India. Estimates suggest that about 25 to 30 percent of all fruits and vegetables spoil before they reach the market due to inadequate cold storage. Similarly, there is a lack of warehousing capacity. A lot of wheat, for example, is simply stored under tarpaulins, where it is at risk of rotting. Such problems raise foods costs to consumers and impose significant losses on farmers.
Farmers have emerged as significant advocates of reform. This is not surprising, because they stand to benefit from working with foreign retailers. Similarly, reform-minded politicians argue that foreign retailers will help to keep food processing in check, which benefits all. Ranged against them is a powerful coalition of small shop owners and left-wing politicians, who argue that the entry of large, well-capitalized foreign retailers will result in the significant job losses and force many small retailers out of businesses.
In 1997, it looked as if the reformers had the upper hand when they succeeded in changing the rules to allow foreign enterprises to participate in wholesale trading. Taking advantage of this reform, in 2009 Walmart started to open up wholesale stores in India under the name Best Price. The stores are operated by a joint venture with Bharti, an Indian conglomerate. These stores are only allowed to sell to other businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, and small retailers. By 2011, the venture had 19 stores in India. Customers of these stores note that unlike many local competitors, they always have produce in stock, and they are not constantly changing their prices. Farmers, too, like the joint venture because it has worked closely with farmers to secure consistent supplies and has made investments in warehouses and cold storage. The joint venture also pays farmers better prices—something it can afford to do because far less produce goes to waste in its system.
For its part, in 2011 the Indian government indicated that it would soon introduce legislation to allow foreign enterprises like Walmart entry into the retail sector. On the basis on this promise, Walmart and Bharti were planning to expand downstream from wholesale into retail establishments, but their plans were put on hold in late 2011 when the Indian government announced that the legislation had been shelved for the time being. Apparently, opposition to such reform had reached such a pitch that implementing it was not worth the political risk. Whether and when this will change remains to be seen.•
Sources: V. Bajaj, “Wal-Mart Debate Rages in India,” The New York Times, December 6, 2011, pp. B1, B2; S.G. Mozumder, “Walmart Is Not Coming to India Just to Sell,” India Abroad, December 16, 2011, pp. A18–A19; and R. Kohli and J. Bhaqwati, “Organized Retailing in India: Issues and Outlook,” Columbia Program on Indian Economic Policies, working paper no. 2011-1, January 22, 2011.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) occurs when a firm invests directly in facilities to produce or market a product in a foreign country. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, FDI occurs whenever a U.S. citizen, organization, or affiliated group takes an interest of 10 percent or more in a foreign business entity. Once a firm undertakes FDI, it becomes a multinational enterprise. An example of FDI is given in the opening case, which describes Walmart’s recent investments in India. Walmart first became a multinational in the early 1990s when it invested in Mexico.
FDI takes on two main forms. The first is a greenfield investment, which involves the establishment of a new operation in a foreign country. The second involves acquiring or merging with an existing firm in the foreign country. Acquisitions can be a minority (where the foreign firm takes a 10 percent to 49 percent interest in the firm’s voting stock), majority (foreign interest of 50 percent to 99 percent), or full outright stake (foreign interest of 100 percent).1
Establishing a new operation in a foreign country.
This chapter opens by looking at the importance of foreign direct investment in the world economy. Next, it reviews the theories that have been used to explain foreign direct investment. The chapter then moves on to look at government policy toward foreign direct investment and closes with a section on implications for business.