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Foreign direct investment (FDI) is an investment from a party in one country into a business or corporation in another country with the intention of establishing a lasting interest. Lasting interest differentiates FDI from foreign portfolio investments, where investors passively hold securities from a foreign country. Foreign direct investment can be made by obtaining a lasting interest or by expanding one’s business into a foreign country.
Typically, there are two main types of FDI: horizontal and vertical FDI.
Horizontal: a business expands its domestic operations to a foreign country. In this case, the business conducts the same activities but in a foreign country. For example, McDonald’s opening restaurants in Japan would be considered horizontal FDI.
Vertical: a business expands into a foreign country by moving to a different level of the supply chain. In other words, a firm conducts different activities abroad but these activities are still related to the main business. Using the same example, McDonald’s could purchase a large-scale farm in Canada to produce meat for their restaurants. However, two other forms of FDI have also been observed: conglomerate and platform FDI.
Conglomerate: a business acquires an unrelated business in a foreign country. This is uncommon, as it requires overcoming two barriers to entry: entering a foreign country and entering a new industry or market. An example of this would be if Virgin Group, which is based in the United Kingdom, acquired a clothing line in France.
Platform: a business expands into a foreign country but the output from the foreign operations is exported to a third country. This is also referred to as export-platform FDI. Platform FDI commonly happens in low-cost locations inside free-trade areas. For example, if Ford purchased manufacturing plants in Ireland with the primary purpose of exporting cars to other countries in the EU.