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Finland continues to attract foreign investment despite the pandemic

An employee at work at the office of Aiven. A number of foreign companies found a comfortable home in Finland in 2020.


Almost 300 foreign companies entered and 130 expanded in Finland in 2020, in spite of the economic and operational challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The industries that received the biggest boost from new foreign investments were business services, and information and communications technology. A little over a half of the investments were allocated to Uusimaa, the most populous region of Finland.

The highest number of new investments came from Sweden, Norway and the UK.

The total number of entries represents an increase from both of the two previous years, a remarkable feat in light of the crippling impact the pandemic has had on global investment flows. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD) in January reported that foreign direct investment plummeted by 42 per cent year-on-year to less than 860 billion US dollars – a new low since the 1990s.

IKEA Finland now produces renewable energy comparable to the annual consumption of the residents of a city the size of Finland’s Turku. Image: Ingka

Foreign companies operating in the country additionally made 130 investments in expanding their operations, substantiating the findings of Finland as a Business Location 2020. The survey found that foreign companies perceived the operating environment more positively than domestic ones and were widely satisfied with the stability, digital infrastructure and functioning of society in Finland.

IKEA and Google, for instance, both invested in developing their own wind farms.

“Although the situation is still difficult with regard to the coronavirus, many foreign-owned companies have said that in these circumstances Finland is the best place for a company to be,” stated Antti Aumo, the executive director of Invest in Finland.

Finnish firms attract foreign capital

Enfuce is delighted to bolster its board of directors with the strategic knowhow of Tencent’s Ling Ge, tells Monika Liikamaa, the CEO of the Espoo-based company. Image: Enfuce

Finnish companies themselves have continued to demonstrate their ability to raise foreign capital after last year’s record-breaking start, which saw startups and growth companies in Finland attract over 700 million euros in funding and 244 million euros in venture capital investments in the first half of 2020. Among the recent beneficiaries of recent significant funding rounds are Aiven, Enfuce and Sellforte.

Aiven, a Helsinki-based provider of open-source data technologies on public clouds, has pocketed 100 million US dollars in a venture capital round led by Atomico, with participation from Salesforce Ventures, World Innovation Lab, Earlybird Venture Capital and IVP.

The startup said it intends to allocate a large share of the funding to ramp up its contributions to pure open-source projects, bring new products to market, expand internationally and double its headcount.

The funding injection comes as open source is gaining considerable traction as a model of cross-company collaboration.

Aiven provides managed open source data technologies on all major clouds. Image: Aiven

“Many of our companies are medium to large companies that generate massive amounts of data and need a modern infrastructure to iterate this data faster,” Oskari Saarenmaa, the CEO of Aiven, toldVentureBeat.

“For example, we work with a few large retail companies who are moving data between their physical stores, e-commerce site, warehouse and more. On the Aiven platform, these companies can build a customised data infrastructure in the public cloud that allows them to move this data quicker and gain insights from their data pipelines.”

Enfuce, meanwhile, has received a financial and strategic boost from Tencent, a Chinese technology behemoth.

The Espoo-based provider of banking and payment processing services reported earlier this month that it has completed a seven million-euro funding round highlighted by a five million-euro investment from Tencent. It also bolstered its strategic expertise by welcoming to its board Ling Ge, the chief representative of Tencent in Europe.

“Tencent sees that we will bring new things to payment technologies, especially speed. They’re also interested in the impact we can make through My Carbon Action, our carbon footprint calculator connected to payments,” commented CEO Monika Liikamaa.

Sellforte’s founders have another reason to smile. The Helsinki-based startup recently announced it has received a four million-euro funding injection to support for its growth endeavours. Image: Sellforte

Sellforte, a Helsinki-headquartered developer of marketing optimisation software, stated that it is accelerating its growth and scaling up product development with the help of four million euros raised in a round led by Sonae IM, with participation from Bonnier Ventures and Icebreaker.vc.

“Sellforte’s platform is the home of all internal and external marketing data,” saidJuha Nuutinen, the founder and chief executive of Sellforte.

“When the data is found in one place, our data analytics models can calculate comparable [return on investment] ROI figures for each marketing investment in different channels and different campaigns,” he commented.

Investments vital for exports, innovation and knowhow

Foreign investments are critical for the competitiveness of Finland: they create jobs, bring investment capital, and encourage exports and innovation.

In 2019, the 4,400 foreign-owned companies operating in the country employed almost 280,000 people, generated 98 billion euros in revenue and made up almost a third of exports, according to Statistics Finland. They thus accounted for over 18 per cent of the employees and almost 23 per cent of the revenue of companies in the country.

Invest in Finland’s Aumo pointed out that although foreign-owned companies only account for roughly one per cent of companies in the country, they contribute significantly to the national economy.

“According to our estimate, these companies generated more than 1.4 billion euros in corporate tax and 15 billion euros in VAT revenue for Finland,” he stated.

By: Aleksi Teivainen