Barcelona — Foreign investment from Latin America reached record levels in 2022, exceeding $73.44 billion, a figure 75% higher than a year earlier, with Brazil, Mexico and Chile accounting for for close to 80% of the foreign direct investment (FDI) coming out of the region since the beginning of the pandemic, a percentage that was maintained last year.
These figures are from the Global LATAM 2022 report, developed by ICEX-Invest in Spain, in collaboration with the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB).
This increase in investment abroad, which contrasted with the convulsive and uncertain period worldwide, is explained above all by the reinvestment of dividends, according to the executive director of ICEX-Invest in Spain, Elisa García Grande, who also highlights “the health of the business fabric” of Latin America.
“Dividend reinvestment strengthens the commitment to countries and sectors in which it already has a presence, but does not increase exposure to new technologies and capabilities or open new markets,” she says.
For Adrián Blanco Estévez, whose job at ICEX-Invest in Spain is to attract investment from Latin America, the region’s companies now have more attributes for internationalization.
“They are more competitive, solid and innovative. In 2022, even with the complicated panorama in the markets, many companies in the region managed to capitalize and companies in sectors such as agriculture and fuels benefited from the war in Ukraine,” she told Bloomberg Línea.
Based on her market perception, Estévez adds that Latin American companies’ investment abroad in 2023 “certainly has a challenging environment, although the outlook is positive”.
Spain, the gateway to Europe
Spain is one of the main recipients of Latin American investment, and the region is also the leading recipient of Spanish capital: since 1993, the volume invested by Spain in the region has been $148.22 billion.
The report estimates that the accumulated Latin American investment in Spain since that year, when the historical series began, amounts to €68.36 billion, and which represents 11% of all foreign investment received by Spain in the period.
The investment commitment of Latin American capital to Spain, considered a natural gateway to the European market, continues and is reflected in the figures. In 2022, 39 investment projects were announced in the European country by Latin American companies, compared to 24 in 2021.
By way of comparison, during the same period, investment plans announced by companies in the region amounted to nine in Germany, three in France and one in Italy.
However, despite the increase in the number of projects, there was a decrease in the total amount. Overall, Latin American countries invested €1.1 million in Spain last year, 33% less than in the previous year.
This was partially explained by restructuring by companies during 2021, and there was also a substantial increase in the amount of greenfield investments, particularly due to the arrival in Spain of small and medium-sized companies and startups from Latin America, according to SEGIB’s secretary general Andrés Allamand.
Among the Latin American companies with the largest greenfield investments in Spain are Cemex, Banco Pichincha, Bimbo, Paez, Accenture, Sidenor and Agunsa.
Brazil, Mexico and Chile: The biggest investors
Since the onset of the pandemic, 80% of all Latin American foreign direct investment into other countries has come from Brazil, Mexico and Chile.
Brazil, at the top of the list, invested 90% more in 2022 than the previous year: $30.69 billion (40% of the total). Mexico, meanwhile, recovered its traditional cross-border investment rhythm, multiplying the flow of investment by 50 to $16.87 billion (25% of the total).
Chile, on the other hand, is the only country among the largest in the region that reduced its investment pace in 2022.
With regard to Latin American investment in Spain, Mexico ranks first (46.8% of the total), followed by Argentina (13.7%), Brazil (9.3%), Colombia (8.9%), Venezuela (8.2%) and Uruguay (4.9%).
The number of projects amounted to 400 last year, far exceeding the figures for 2021 (339) and even for pre-pandemic 2019 (394).
The sector with the most investment projects in 2022 was software and IT services, 108, almost double the number of projects for financial services (57), which took second place.
With regard to cross-border acquisition projects, 2022 proved particularly challenging, however.
According to the report, rising financing costs and liquidity constraints, coupled with exchange rate volatility and uncertainty, affected companies’ ability to pursue internationalization projects.
The value of M&A completed in the year was $3.32 billion, 68% lower than in 2021 ($10.28 billion).
As in the other areas, those showing the highest figures were Brazil, Mexico and Chile, accounting for 85% of the value of mergers and acquisitions. The other Latin American countries continue to prioritize investment in neighboring countries (40% of the total).
In 2022, only Panama and Peru joined the three as investors outside Latin America in this area, albeit marginally.
The other priority destinations are the United States and Europe (27% and 23% respectively).
“Interestingly, contrary to what might be expected, investment in the United States came mainly from Brazil and Chile, while Mexican investment went to Europe,” says the Global LATAM 2022 report.
The most active companies in cross-border acquisitions were Brazilian companies, with 19 deals in 2022. The largest operation of the year totaled US$1.2 billion and involved J&F Mineração, which acquired from Vale the mining companies, also Brazilian, Mineração Corumbaense Reunida and Mineração Mato Grosso, in addition to buying the Panamanian International Iron Company and the logistics company Transbarge Navegación, in Paraguay.