Foreign direct investment in the UK
The UK maintains its second-place ranking among European nations in its capacity to attract FDI projects. FDI in the UK encompasses a wide array of economic activities, including the establishment of new enterprises, the expansion of existing businesses, and the acquisition of domestic companies by foreign entities. These investments have been proven to enhance productivity, thereby increasing output and wages across various sectors. The primary benefit of FDI lies in the introduction of new technological and managerial expertise by foreign firms, which can subsequently be adopted by domestic companies, often within the supply chains of multinational corporations.

By definition, FDI pertains to the capital investments made by businesses or individuals from one nation in enterprises or assets located in another country, with the primary objective of participating in the management and control of said entities. The motivations underpinning FDI are multifaceted and may encompass the following:

  1. Market expansion: companies may seek to invest in foreign markets to broaden their customer base, gain access to untapped markets, and consequently augment their sales and profitability.
  2. Resource acquisition: investors may pursue FDI to secure access to resources that are scarce or unavailable in their domestic market, such as raw materials, energy, technology, or skilled labour.
  3. Portfolio diversification: investing in foreign markets can serve as a risk mitigation strategy, reducing exposure to domestic economic volatility, political instability, or currency fluctuations through portfolio diversification.
  4. Technology transfer: FDI can facilitate the cross-border transfer of technology, know-how, and management expertise, resulting in enhanced productivity and competitiveness for both the investing and recipient nations.
FDI in the UK typically manifests in three primary forms:
  1. Greenfield investments: these involve the establishment of new investment projects from the ground up, such as the creation of new companies, offices, or operational facilities. Greenfield investments contribute significantly to the UK economy by fostering employment growth, capital accumulation through new expenditures, and the advancement of innovation.
  2. Expansion investments: in this type of FDI, existing investors augment their production or operational capacity within the UK, often through the construction of new facilities, the acquisition of new equipment, or the increase of production capacity.
  3. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A): M&A transactions in the UK are strategic in nature, involving either the merger of companies or the acquisition of a majority stake in a target company by a foreign investor. In the context of FDI, M&A transactions involve foreign investors acquiring more than 10% of the shares or assets of a UK company, which is considered a significant transaction likely to have a substantial impact on the market and the economy.

Factors driving the growth of FDI in the UK

The rise in FDI in the United Kingdom can be attributed to several key factors:

  1. Globalization: the free flow of capital facilitated by globalization has made international investment more accessible, encouraging foreign investors to diversify their portfolios and gain access to new markets and opportunities in the UK.
  2. Free trade policies: the UK's commitment to openness and foreign investment has been bolstered by reduced tariffs, streamlined import and export procedures, and the establishment of multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements. The creation of several free trade zones in the country, such as the Liverpool Free Zone, Prestwick Airport Free Zone, Southampton Free Zone, and Tilbury Port Free Zone, has further contributed to an enabling environment for FDI.
  3. Privatization: The privatization of state-owned enterprises and assets through the sale of state property to private sector entities has played a significant role in attracting FDI. Privatization can enhance competition, stimulate innovation, and promote overall economic growth by transferring the management of enterprises to private hands, resulting in increased efficiency, reduced bureaucracy, and improved productivity. This, in turn, creates a more favourable business environment that attracts foreign investment.

The UK's evolving FDI and M&A regulatory landscape





Initiation of review

BEIS Department commenced a thorough review of the nation's approach to regulating mergers and acquisitions, with a specific focus on assessing the adequacy of existing measures to mitigate potential state safety risks stemming from FDI.

Green Paper

Obtaining feedback from stakeholders regarding the effectiveness of the country's FDI screening regime.


Short-term reforms

The government implemented a series of short-term reforms aimed at reducing jurisdictional thresholds for merger control in the UK. These reforms specifically targeted transactions involving target companies operating in industries critical to state safety.


White Paper

Outlining proposed long-term legislative reforms to enhance the screening of the UK’s FDI.


Public consultation

The government conducted a public consultation to gather input on the proposed reforms outlined in the White Paper.


Introduction of NSIA Act

Ushering in a new screening regime for foreign investment in the UK.

Mandatory notification

Certain acquisitions of companies operating in 17 “sensitive” sectors.

Voluntary notification

Other types of transactions, including the acquisition of assets and intellectual property.

Establishment of mechanisms

Assessing and monitoring foreign investment in sectors such as energy, robotics, defence, artificial intelligence, transport, communications, and others.

Primary objective

The primary objective of the NSIA Act is to safeguard strategically important companies and technologies from potential interference or control by foreign interests that could pose a threat to national security.

Notification process

E-submission to the ISU at the BEIS Department, which possesses the authority to impose conditions on transactions and even cancel or block transactions deemed detrimental to state safety.

Comprehensive verification regime

The government regulator to intervene in a broader range of transactions involving businesses of all sizes.

Key features

1. Intervention may occur in UK M&A transactions involving “trigger events” such as acquisition of certain percentages of voting rights or shares, significant influence on organizational policy, or rights/interests in qualifying assets.

2. Mandatory notification for transactions in critical industries and for certain thresholds of shares/votes.

3. The regulator may request notification of a UK merger if reasonable grounds exist to suspect a state safety risk.

Sensitive sectors

Communications technologies for nuclear industry, data infrastructure, protection against cyber threats, energy, transport, AI, autonomous systems, computing equipment, crypto authentication, quantum technologies, engineering biology, transactions with government suppliers, critical emergency service providers, military or dual-use technologies, and satellite/space technologies.


30 working days of in-depth appraisal, extendable by up to 45 working days in exceptional circumstances.


Non-compliance fines of up to GBP 10 million or 5% of global turnover, and possible custodial sentences for directors lasting up to 5 years.


The nation has introduced a comprehensive suite of legislative reforms designed to modernise and streamline the regulatory framework governing FDI in the country. The national legislation represents a significant shift in the Government's approach to the screening of inbound investment, with a particular focus on safeguarding state safety and preserving the integrity of the UK's strategic economic assets.

For investors contemplating mergers, acquisitions or other forms of FDI in the UK, it is imperative to carefully evaluate the implications of the new codification and to develop a thorough understanding of the attendant risks and compliance obligations. This may necessitate a fundamental reassessment of investment strategies and a heightened degree of due diligence in the planning and execution of cross-border transactions.

The introduction of enhanced government powers to intervene in transactions on state safety, coupled with the proposed preventive measures to preclude the listing of securities on UK public markets, underscores the resolute commitment to protecting the nation's economic and strategic interests. While these measures may present additional challenges for foreign investors, they are ultimately designed to ensure the long-term stability, transparency, and resilience of the UK economy.

In navigating this complex and evolving regulatory landscape, businesses and investors are strongly advised to seek the guidance and support of experienced legal professionals, who can provide bespoke advice and assistance in relation to foreign investment regulation in the United Kingdom. By proactively engaging with these challenges and adapting to the new realities of the foreign investment regime, market participants can position themselves to seize the opportunities presented by the UK's dynamic and globally integrated economy while mitigating the risks and uncertainties inherent in cross-border investment.

For those planning to enter into a cross-border M&A transaction in the UK, it is important to consider the implications of the new regime alongside merger control requirements. To book advice on FDI regulation in the UK, contact the experts at YB Case.

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