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Northern France is definitely open to the world!

28 Apr 2015 | Investment

ORECE, France's Observatoire Régional des Entreprises à Capitaux Etrangers, has just published its latest report on international businesses with operations in Northern France. The figures speak for themselves: with over 1,600 companies with foreign capital and nearly 100,000 employees working for them, the region is most definitely international in scope.

Download the full report

Investor countries

Foreign companies in Northern France represent a total of 46 nationalities. Measured by number of sites and number of employees, Belgium, Germany and the United States lead the pack, together accounting for 59% of sites and 49% of employees. In all, European companies account for 1,331 sites (81% of the total), employing 70,240 people (73% of the total). Among non-European companies represented, the US ranks first, with Japan second and Canada, China and India well behind.

A key development over the past five years has been China's move into the Top 5 investor countries based on number of jobs. This has come almost exclusively through takeovers such as Gelmer and Valdunes. Companies from the United States remain active, particularly in very large-scale service industries—IBM, Amazon and Booking, for example—along with businesses from Germany, Belgium and Italy, for which big takeovers played a larger role than company creations and extensions of existing businesses, notably in manufacturing.

Business sectors

Tertiary activities (services, commerce and transport) account for 2/3 of total sites, compared with 1/3 for the secondary sector. In the industrial sector, chemicals and plastics represent only 5% of foreign companies present in the region. The picture changes for job numbers, with the secondary sector accounting for 57% of total headcount. This reflects the larger average size of manufacturing sites (iron & steel, chemicals & plastics, food and food transformation, automotive, etc.) compared with service activities and commerce.

Local appeal

The Lille area alone accounts for 56% of all foreign-owned sites. The remaining 44% are divided fairly evenly around the other three areas of Northern France, although the cluster of sites near Dunkerque gives the coastal Côte d'Opale a slight edge. Based on job numbers, while the Lille area accounts for a hefty 40%, other regions are not all that far behind. All three—Cote d'Opale, Artois and Hainaut have attracted large projects in both manufacturing and logistics, giving them largely equal shares of the remaining 60% of jobs.

Company size

A breakdown of foreign-owned companies by size shows that the top 241 sites with over 100 workers (14.6% of total sites) account for nearly 74% of all jobs. Expanding this group to include the 398 sites with over 50 employees, shows that they account for 85% of the total workforce.

For more information, contact Marie-Hélène Cauchy.

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