25 years of Nordic investment in France: where are we now?

Jun 16, 2022 | Denmark, Finland, Industry & Cleantech, Invest in France, Norway, Sweden

France has never been as attractive as it was in 2021. The Nordic countries contributed to this performance and have done so for 25 years! Indeed, 1,091 Nordic investment projects have created around 57,000 jobs in France over the last 25 years. The number of Nordic investments is growing, with a noticeable shift in the center of gravity in the region, thanks to the growing share of Danish investments breaking new records every year.

2021, an unprecedented year for FDI in France!

In 2021, more than 1,600 foreign investment projects were registered, an increase of 32% compared to 2020. These projects have created or maintained more than 45,000 jobs (+30% compared to 2020). Therefore, the reindustrialization of France is a reality. No less than 460 industrial projects of foreign origin have been identified in France in 2021, a record. Industrial projects are rising sharply in 2021 (+49%), representing 29% of investment projects and 36% of induced jobs. 45% of projects and 72% of industrial projects are located in cities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.

2021 is also an unprecedented year for Nordic foreign direct investments in France, with 101 projects creating 2,041 jobs! A historic milestone, far above the average of 80 projects per year recorded over the last few years!

Figure 1. Nordic investment in France
(source: Business France)

Choose France - Invest in France - Business France Nordics - 25 years

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Sweden, the historic leader of Nordic investments in France

Sweden has always been the historic leader of Nordic investments in France. Since 1993, Sweden has carried out 627 projects and created around 33,000 jobs in France. It is the leading Nordic employer in France regarding subsidiaries, projects, and jobs created on average. Over the last five years, the share of newcomers represents 62% of Nordic investments, implying a new dynamic led by Swedish entrepreneurs.

Read more: 10 tips for setting up a business in France

From a sectoral perspective, the ambitious strategy of Ikea on the French market has nurtured job creation, with the opening of 12 new stores throughout France announced in 2010 for an investment of nearly €1 billion. The automotive industry driven by Volvo Group also represents a significant investment sector, with 15 workers recruited yearly at the Volvo Renault Trucks factory in Limoges since 2015.

In 2020, France received 30 Swedish investments, a level equivalent to the previous years despite the economic context caused by the pandemic. The outbreak led to the rise of the health sector, with significant investments made by Recipharm. Indeed, the most critical project in terms of jobs created in France in 2021 was carried out by one of the Swedish largest companies. For example, Ericsson has decided to expand its R&D center, located in the Paris-Saclay competitiveness cluster, to work on developing 5G and cyber security.

Read more: Ericsson’s Head of France advises Nordic investors: “Don’t hesitate and run for it!

Denmark stands out amongst Nordic investors

Danish job-creating investments in France have been growing over the past 30 years. Since 1993, Denmark has carried out 285 projects and created around 9,000 jobs, making it the second-largest Nordic investor in France. Denmark recorded up to 30 investments in 2020, breaking a new record and confirming the trend.

Read more: Danish CEO explains why she would choose France rather than China to invest in production

In 2021, France was the leading European recipient of Danish investments. In addition, the top Nordic employer is the Danish company ISS, a major player in the business and public services market, employing approximately 22,000 people in France. Denmark is a forerunner in the rise of the health sector, which has been the leading sector for Danish investments over the past 10 years, with prominent companies such as Lundbeck, Leo Pharma, and Novo Nordisk.

Figure 2. Jobs and projects created and saved between 1993-2021
by Danish investment compared with Swedish investments
(source: Business France)

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Norway, Finland: a more moderate investment growth 

Although there is more dynamism on the Swedish and Danish sides, Norway and Finland have continued to invest in France. Unlike its Nordic neighbors, Finnish job-creating investments in France have been relatively stable over 28 years. Since 1993, Finland has completed 177 projects creating around 7,500 jobs. Finnish investments are mainly concentrated in the ICT sector, with a strong presence of Nokia in France. The group bought Alcatel Lucent and now employs 5,400 people in four different sites, including an R&D center in the Saclay hub (2,000 Nokia employees).

Read more: #France2030: the French strategy to support industrial startups

Norway is the fourth largest Nordic investor in terms of active subsidiaries in France (stock) and projects completed over the past 25 years. There are currently around 100 Norwegian companies in France. The profile of Norwegian investment shows an increase at the end of the 1990s. The 1997 peak corresponds to the dynamism of the fishing and paper sectors. The 2006 peak was mainly due to the significant expansion of the activities of Aker Yards. This shipbuilder took over the Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire.

Read more: Norske Skog’s CEO chose France to invest in a greener industry

French recovery plan in line with new sectoral trends in the Nordic countries  

The 2020-2022 French Economic Recovery Plan is a program by the French government to revive the French economy following the economic crisis related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Three axes of this plan can benefit Nordic companies for their investment projects in France, especially in the health sector, energy transition, and tech.

Read more: #FranceRelance: already €72 billion incurred at the end of 2021

Concerning the health industry, French public policy aims at fostering a dynamic health tech ecosystem. Four measures from the recovery plan aim to reinforce the competitiveness of companies in the health tech sector. Companies like Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company specializing in treatments for diabetes, or Lundbeck, a company engaged in the development, production, and marketing of drugs for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders, could benefit from such measures:

The green hydrogen plan has three main objectives: increase carbon-free hydrogen production capacity, reach 6.5 GW by electrolysis by 2030, and build an industrial sector that creates jobs. This will allow 50,000 to 150,000 direct and indirect employment in France. This plan will be very timely for Nordic investments. For example, in April 2021, the Swedish Volvo Group announced the launch of the mass production of hydrogen-powered trucks.

Read more: #France2030: €7 billion for hydrogen

A massive effort to boost the French startup nation  

La French Tech is the French movement of startups. The trend is experiencing a natural dynamic, with a record of nearly €8 billion raised since the beginning of 2021. The country expects to count 21 unicorns by the end of the year. As a milestone, in September, €1 billion was raised in total, with Vestiaire Collective (210 M€) added to Mirakl and Sorare within 24 hours.

Such momentum attracts the attention of Nordic investors. For instance, the Danish fund Heartcore Capital has announced that it will devote 1/3 of its new 250 M€ funds to strengthening its French portfolio through new investments. More recently, the Nordic VC Northzone closed its first deal with the French mobile gaming startup Homa Games to fuel its €50 million Series A.

Read more: What’s happening with La French Tech in 2022?


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Article written by Charlotte Bloch

Maxime Krummenacker - Communications Manager - Business France
Communications Manager
Maxime Krummenacker - Communications Manager - Business France
Communication Manager