Foreign Investment

Introduction to Foreign Investment

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Christian Bien

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What is Foreign Investment?
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Foreign investment is defined as foreign capital inflows as a result of the sale of domestic assets (foreign equity) or borrowings from overseas residents (foreign debt). In other words, money from outside of Australia used to buy assets or provide loans.

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What are the Types of Foreign Investment?
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Direct Investment Direct Investment is where an overseas resident invests 10% or more ownership stake in a domestic business. Direct investment tends to be more long-term in nature. Direct investment is the second largest proportion of foreign investment accounting for around 24% of all foreign investment. (Source: DFAT) 


Portfolio Investment Portfolio investment is where an overseas resident invests less than 10% ownership stake in a domestic business. Portfolio investment tends to be highly speculative and volatile to changing market conditions and can include transactions such as an overseas resident purchasing less than 10% of shares in a company. Portfolio investment is the largest proportion of foreign investment accounting for around 54% of foreign investment. (Source: DFAT) Reserve Assets An investment that has been taken by the Reserve Bank or Australian Treasury using reserve assets. Financial Derivatives Financial derivatives are a form of foreign investment that is linked with a financial instrument or commodity prices, such as interest rate swaps. Financial derivatives is unimportant in the WACE syllabus.

Topic Menu
Introduction to Foreign Investment
Foreign Liabilities
Current Account and Foreign Liabilities
Foreign Direct Investment
Foreign Debt
Benefits and Costs of Foreign Investment

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Why Does Australia Rely on Foreign Investment?

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Australia has a small population of around 25 million and hence does not produce enough savings to meet its investment needs. Australia is often described as 'resource rich but capital poor' which means Australia is rich with commodities but does not have savings required to finance projects to extract those commodities. As a result, Australia relies on other countries with surplus savings, such as Japan, to invest in Australia to develop large capital projects. Foreign investment helps finance Australia's investment and savings gap - that is the gap between Australia's investment needs and our actual level of savings.

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