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      Manufacturers prefer India to US in FDI stakes

      Posted AtRediff.com

      India has displaced the US to become the second-most attractive destination for foreign direct investment among manufacturing investors, as per A T Kearney's latest FDI Confidence Index rankings.

      The rankings are based on an annual survey of chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other top executives of Global 1000 companies, conducted by the Global Business Policy Council of A T Kearney.

      Telecom and utility investors, for instance, upgraded India from the fifth place to second. At the same time, the US was displaced from the top-most position down to the fourth place, just after Hong Kong. China gained immense ground and swapped places with the US, up from fourth to the first, the survey stated.

      Overall, India has moved up three notches from the sixth place last year to the third as the most attractive FDI destination. The perception gap between the US and India is, however, fast closing.

      Against China's index of 2.03, India ranked marginally behind the US at 1.4, against the latter's 1.45. The US National Intelligence Council's study also identifies India as the new economic star of the 21st century along with China. This explains the eight-fold rise in FDI inflows into India over the last decade.

      The $1-billion Holcim-ACC-Gujarat Ambuja deal is a pointer to the FDI potential India enjoys today. In 2004-05, India attracted higher FDI at $7.5-8 billion, up from $4.7 billion in the preceding fiscal.

      "Recent government initiatives have raised India's short-term attractiveness as an investment destination," stated PricewaterhouseCoopers on Asia-Pacific M&A Bulletin. Yet despite FDI's 24 per cent surge last year, in absolute terms, it is relatively low at $4.3 billion against China's $53.5 billion, it added.

      India witnessed massive growth in M&A deals in the first half of 2005, with aggregate deals valued at $6.9 billion against $2.9 billion in the corresponding period last year, stated PWC.

      Compared with telecommunications and information technology, majority of the deals in 2003-04 took place in manufacturing. "India has witnessed the second highest growth in M&As after Japan," it added.

      In the second half of 2005, M&A deals are expected to take place in real estate, which has been opened up to FDI. Similarly, oil and gas sector is expected to see acquisitions as state-owned ONGC continues with its plans of international foray.

      On the domestic side, Indian Oil Corporation and other oil majors are likely to focus on opportunities, especially in South East Asia. Other sectors expected to benefit from private equity, according to PWC, include IT, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and travel/tourism.

      An increasing number of M&A deals and a rising value of each deal are an outcome of improved investor optimism. Both India and China boast of the highest investor confidence at 38 per cent. India is gaining confidence of global investors at the expense of the US, A T Kearney said.

      While investors perceive further FDI into the US will depend upon the performance of the country's economy and the position of the dollar, AT Kearney's annual survey of the top brass of global 1000 companies identified bureaucracy, political stability and maintaining low-cost advantage as the three key factors for India to ensure global competitiveness.

      India's strong performance in manufacturing, including telecommunications and utility, has been largely driven by investments in IT, business process outsourcing, research & development and knowledge management activities.

      August 16, 2005


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