'Record' foreign investments in France worth $16 bn, Microsoft tops

'Record' foreign investments in France worth $16 bn, Microsoft tops
Microsoft (Stock photo)


France has received combined investment commitments from foreign companies of more than 15 billion euros ($16.2 billion), President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Monday.


The announcement came as Macron kicked off a day of meetings with foreign business leaders at the Chateau de Versailles, called "Choose France".


The biggest single commitment is by Microsoft, which on Sunday announced four billion euros in investment to develop data centres.


Microsoft's president Brad Smith told AFP the move to strengthen its artificial intelligence and cloud computing infrastructure was the tech giant's biggest-ever investment in France since its arrival 41 years ago.


A new data centre will be created in eastern France, while existing sites in the Paris region and the southern city of Marseille will be expanded.


E-commerce behemoth Amazon will invest more than 1.2 billion euros in France, creating more than 3,000 jobs, Macron's office said on Sunday.


The money will help develop Amazon Web Services' (AWS) cloud infrastructure, mainly generative artificial intelligence, and the logistical infrastructure of its parcel delivery service, a statement added.


'Stable' policies

Several pharmaceutical companies, including US group Pfizer and Britain's AstraZeneca, on Sunday announced commitments to invest more than a billion euros more in France's health sector.


The largest industrial project announced so far is a potential fertiliser factory, which could significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.


France was last year Europe's top destination for foreign investment for the fifth year running, according to an EY survey, with more than 1,200 investment announcements.


"This is a result of the stability of our economic policies," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told public broadcaster France 2.


Macron's office said that the 15-billion-euro investment total -- spread over a "record" 56 projects -- would potentially lead to 10,000 jobs being created.


Sylvain Bersinger, chief economist at economic consultancy Asteres, said France's attractiveness for foreign money was based on its education system, tax regime, innovation culture and solid domestic market.


He cast doubt, however, on the usefulness of Monday's high-profile event at Versailles, once home to the kings of France.


"Most of the projects would have happened anyway, with or without the summit," he said.


'World-class skills'

Paris is one of Europe's "big four" hubs for data centres, competing for business with Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London.


Marseille has also attracted big investment in the sector in recent years.


Microsoft's Smith said France's "long-standing commitment to carbon-free energy markets" made it stand out from its competitors.


France relies on nuclear for its energy production and has largely phased out fossil fuels -- unlike Germany and the UK.


Sami Slim, CEO of French data centre firm Telehouse, said part of the country's appeal was its rapid connections with London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.


"You're 10 milliseconds away from all the connectivity nodes in Europe," he told AFP.


Geraldine Camara of industry body France Datacenter added that the country had "world-class engineering skills".