* 450mln euro commitment follows earlier 350mln stake
* Data centre facility is ex-Stora Enso paper mill
* Government plans electricity tax cuts for data centres
By Ritsuko Ando
HAMINA, Finland, Nov 4 Google will
invest another 450 million euros ($607 million) over the next
few years in a data centre in Finland, boosting a country
struggling with Nokia's decline and weakness in its
paper and steel industries.
Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen welcomed the move, one of the
biggest foreign direct investments in Finland, and said the
government planned to reduce electricity taxes for data centres
to encourage more such stakes.
The new pledge by the world's No. 1 Internet search company
is in addition to 350 million euros it has already spent on the
data centre, built on the site of paper company Stora Enso's
former mill in Hamina, southeastern Finland.
Google bought the mill in 2009, turning it into one of its
most efficient data centres by taking advantage of the Bay of
Finland's chilly seawater to cool its servers.
Katainen said Google's move showed that Finland, with its
highly skilled work force, remained competitive.
"Finland's strength is in finding creative solutions to
global challenges," he said on Monday during a visit to the
site. He said the government would do its part by lowering
electricity taxes for such sites starting in 2014, although the
move still needs approval from the European Commission.
"Our job from the government side is to create and enable
good infrastructure for various fields of business."
Finland has been trying to shore up business confidence
hard-hit in September when Nokia, struggling for years to catch
up with Apple and Samsung in smartphones, announced it was
selling the handset business to Microsoft.
Finland has one of the few remaining triple-A rated
economies in the euro zone, but Europe's prolonged downturn has
restrained exports and accelerated a decline in industries such
as forestry, tipping the current account into deficit.
The government has forecast GDP to contract 0.5 percent this
year. But there have been some positive signs, especially in
Finland's gaming industry led by Rovio of Angry Birds fame.
Japanese tech and telecoms group SoftBank Corp
announced in October that it was paying 150 billion
yen ($1.53 billion) for a 51 percent stake in Finnish mobile
game maker Supercell, valuing the small maker of hit games
"Clash of Clans" and "Hay Day" at $3 billion.
EXPANDING DATA CENTRES
Data centres have also been rare bright spots.
Microsoft has said it will invest more than $250
million in a new data centre in Finland. Yandex,
Russia's biggest search engine, started building a data centre
in Mantsala, southern Finland, in July.
The increasing use of cloud computing, which allows software
and services including email and online music libraries to be
offered over the Internet, is seen driving up the use of data
centre usage in the coming years.
Technology companies such as Google have been looking for
cheaper ways to run them, and Finland and other northern
European countries have been popular sites due to cooler
climates that help to reduce cooling costs.
At the Hamina facility, one of some 13 Google data centres
in the world, seawater is pumped through the facility to
dissipate heat from the data centre's servers. The water is then
cooled down before being returned to the sea.
There are also environmental considerations. Around 2
percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the
technology sector. Of that, data centres account for around 17
percent, according to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, an
industry-sponsored research group specialising in topics such as
Mika Perttunen, a director of regional development company
Cursor that has been trying to lure businesses to the area, said
Google's announcement showed Finland was recovering not only
from Nokia's downfall but also from a decline in paper
Stora Enso's 60-year-old mill, before shutting down in early
2008, employed around 450 people. The data centre currently only
employs around 125 people but Google said it planned to increase
staff over the coming years.
"We used to read newspapers, and nowadays we use tablets for
the same information. This is a good symbol of change,"