Companies choose to invest in foreign markets for a number of reasons, often the same reasons for expanding their operations within their home country. The economist John Dunning has identified four primary reasons for corporate foreign investments (Global Capitalism, FDI and Competitiveness, 2002):
Market seeking: Firms may go overseas to find new buyers for their goods and services. The top executives or owners of a company may realize that their product is unique or superior to the competition in foreign markets and seek to take advantage of this opportunity. Another motivation for market-seeking occurs when producers have saturated sales in their home market, or when they believe investments overseas will bring higher returns than additional investments at home. This is often the case with high technology goods. As one analyst noted, “The minimum size of market needed to support technological development in certain industries is now larger than the largest national market” (Sutherland 1998).
Resource seeking: Put simply, a company may find it cheaper to produce its product in a foreign subsidiary- for the purpose of selling it either at home or in foreign markets. The foreign facility may be able to obtain superior or less costly access to the inputs of production (land, labor, capital, and natural resources) than at home.
Strategic asset seeking: Firms may seek to invest in other companies abroad to help build strategic assets, such as distribution networks or new technology. This may involve the establishment of partnerships with other existing foreign firms that specialize in certain aspects of production.
Efficiency seeking: Multinational companies may also seek to reorganize their overseas holdings in response to broader economic changes. For example, the creation of a new free trade agreement among a group of countries may suddenly make a facility located in one of those countries more competitive, because of access for the facility to lower tariff rates within the group. Fluctuations in exchange rates may also change the profit calculations of a firm, leading the firm to shift the allocation of its resources.