* FDI inflows fall 25 pct in 2nd qtr vs 1st qtr
* Repatriated earnings rise on currency depreciation fears
(Recasts, adds byline, details, link)
By Jonathan Lynn
GENEVA, Oct 14 The risk of a currency war as
governments try to push down exchange rates to make exports more
competitive is deterring businesses from investing abroad, a
United Nations expert said on Thursday.
Uncertainty about exchange rates is already causing
multinational corporations to scale back foreign investment,
said James Zhan, a senior official at the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
As a result foreign direct investment (FDI) -- a key source
of finance for developing countries -- is likely to stagnate
this year at about $1.1 trillion, one quarter below its level in
the years running up to the financial crisis, said Zhan, who
heads UNCTAD's investment and enterprise division.
"We have seen recently fluctuations of major currencies in a
significant manner. There is a danger of a currency war," Zhan
told a briefing.
Zhan's comments follow a series of warnings by policy-makers
that the world is in or heading for a currency war as
governments try to push down their exchange rates to make their
exports more competitive. [ID:nLDE69D0ST]
Competitive devaluations were a double-edged sword as far as
investment is concerned, Zhan said.
They could attract inward investment by making assets
cheaper and strengthening a country's export competitiveness.
But they would also reduce the value of profits repatriated
from foreign affiliates, making investment less attractive for a
multinational corporation, he said.
UNCTAD, whose monitoring of global investment flows is
closely followed by economists and businesses, said it appeared
that re-invested earnings, which typically account for one third
of foreign direct investment (FDI), had fallen in the second
quarter of this year as companies repatriated profits in
anticipation of further currency depreciation.
Total FDI inflows fell by about 25 percent in the second
quarter of this year from their level in the first three months
and were some 15 percent lower than a year earlier, according to
data in UNCTAD's latest Global Investment Trends Monitor.
"A new FDI boom clearly remains a distant prospect," Zhan
UNCTAD said the fall in FDI in the second quarter was
particularly pronounced in developed countries, with some, such
as Britain, a traditional destination for investment, actually
seeing outflows of $7 billion against inflows of $42 billion in
the previous three months.
Belgium and Ireland also suffered outflows amid turmoil on
sovereign debt markets in Europe.
The United States, traditionally the biggest destination for
foreign investment, saw inflows almost halve to $28.5 billion in
the first quarter.
That figure was barely ahead of China, with inflows of $28.0
billion. Two other emerging economies, Hong Kong and Russia,
were among the top five destinations.
Preliminary data for the third quarter pointed to an
increase in the value but not the number of cross-border mergers
and acquisitions. But greenfield investments fell in both number
and value terms in the third quarter.
(For full UNCTAD monitor go to link.reuters.com/wab58p )
(Editing by Jon Boyle)
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