Europe as a Top Investment Location and Austria’s Central Role
The 500 million consumers in the EU account for more than one-fifth of personal expenditures worldwide. Consistent economic development and rising incomes contribute to this. Located in the heart of Europe, Austria is equidistant in all geographical directions, making it an ideal starting point for business operations and a springboard to the growing and still partially untapped markets of CEE and EMEA at Europe’s doorstep. For example, this offers undreamt-of possibilities to American companies, especially in the service sector.
Information and communications technology is also a booming field. The EU attracted one-quarter of all global greenfield investments in this segment in 2017 in spite of the worldwide slowdown in investment activity. Half of all greenfield investments in the EU spanning all sectors originated in the USA, whereas China, whose investments in the EU are also increasing, mainly focused on brownfield projects.
Mergers and acquisitions
There is also an upsurge in mergers and acquisitions. E.g. the number of corporate acquisitions in Austria by American companies increased over the last five years. The average annual growth rate was 21%. Innovative technology-oriented firms were particularly popular. The innovative strength of domestic companies and the strategically favorable location in the heart of Europe make Austria interesting to investors. In 2018, the multibillion-dollar company Allegion which is publicly listed in the USA acquired a strategic stake in the Styrian start-up Nuki, a specialist for smart door locks. Shortly afterwards, the Graz-based application specialist iTranslate was acquired by the American Internet group IAC in the spring of 2018. And in June 2018, Silicon Valley VC TCV purchased an equity holding in the Viennese start-up TourRadar. Back in 2017, Internet giant Google made a large-scale investment in an Austrian company for the first time and now owns a 41 percent share of the Viennese IT firm StreamUnlimited.
Business hub with a top-notch quality of life
Austria is located at the crossroads of all significant data and energy lines and a traffic hub with a stable energy supply. Moreover, it is ideally suited for high-energy sectors such as data centers. The country is a high-quality business location but still affordable in international comparison. The above-average green energy mix which distinguishes Austria alongside the reliability of the energy supply should also be emphasized.
Not to mention the quality of life. For one thing, Vienna was rated as the most livable city in the world by Mercer for the ninth consecutive time. Recently, Vienna was also ranked as the “Greenest Capital City in Europe” by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The attractiveness of Austria as a business location is high and the country is gaining ground, as surveys of representatives of foreign companies show, such as the AmCham Business Barometer. Naturally this phenomenon is not only due to the quality of life.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) mainly focuses on stable, predictable regions. Investors expect an outstanding infrastructure and access to new technologies as well as reliable conditions. Thanks to its reliable legal system, data protection and eGovernment, Austrian is not only an exemplary model, but it also stands up for ethics. The Austrian lawyer and data protection activist Max Schrems made a name for himself by bringing giants in the industry to their knees.
International and multi-talented
Austria’s first-class infrastructure is highly valued, especially in the field of research. Here both large-sized and small companies can operate like in a well-feathered nest and benefit from well-educated employees and numerous funding possibilities, for example the 14 percent research premium. This also leads to the disproportionately high research to GDP ratio, largely comprised of public sector investments, but also about one half from investments made by foreign companies in Austria. This is pretty high in international comparison. Numerous international brands such as Microsoft, Pfizer and Infineon take advantage of this offering and also profit from the excellent talent pool Austria has to offer.
Thanks to the historical tradition of Austria as a melting pot in the heart of Europe, 20 percent of all the people in Austria boast a migration background, which is reflected in their linguistic diversity and know-how. The practice-oriented dual education system and the large number of universities and universities of applied sciences are a breeding ground for well-trained employees who are comparatively more productive and motivated. This is a clear argument against low-wage countries, as the increase in investments in Austria show.
Austria as a headquarters location
Austria continues to be popular as a location for headquarters and holding companies. More than 300 regional headquarters are based in Austria. Europe, and Austria in particular, have succeeded in maintaining their position as being “solid as a rock” despite, or perhaps because of, uncertainties arising around the world due to trade wars or other political troubles.
Up until recently Great Britain has still been the European country featuring the most foreign companies, especially American firms. In times of Brexit, more and more companies such as Sony are considering locating their operations in a stable country in the middle of the EU or at least establishing a second foothold there. Being in the EU is an absolute must. In Austria this tends to be a heartfelt wish, as my customers tell me.