Foreigners owning more Danish businesses

Asian investment in Danish businesses rose over a thousand percent in the last decade while American investment dropped slightly

Foreign ownership of Danish businesses has risen 55 percent according to a new study by the weekly newsletter Ugebrevet A4.

In 2004, foreigners owned 503 billion kroner worth of Danish businesses. By 2012, this had risen to 781 billion kroner.

Of the 3,401 foreign-owned businesses, 766 are Swedish-owned, 378 are Dutch-owned and 360 Norwegian-owned.

With 1,357 foreign-owned business, retail and transport is the biggest sector with foreign ownership, followed by 535 foreign-owned finance and insurance businesses and 423 businesses in the industrial sector.

According to Philipp Schröder, a professor of economics at the University of Aarhus and chairman of The Tuborg Research Centre for Globalisation and Firms, the increase in foreign ownership is no cause for concern.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether Georg Jensen is owned by Bahrainis, the Chinese or Danes,” Schröder told Ugebrevet A4. “What is important is that Danes work at the company and that their salaries contribute to Denmark’s GDP.”

Schröder added that there were some disadvantages of having foreign owners, saying that they could be more likely to withdraw their investments than Danish owners if their business faces obstacles.

Foreign owners can also create cultural problems according to Peter James Stark, the international secretary for the trade union HK Handel.

“We have experienced management handing manuals to employees that detail their day down to what they would be doing exactly between 8:05 and 8:30am and things like that,” Stark told Ugebrevet A4. “The private use of phones and messaging was also banned. This sort of micro-management does not fit well with the Danish working culture.”

The increase in foreign ownership is driven mostly by investment from Asia. Asian ownership of Danish businesses rose over 1,000 percent from 3.9 billion kroner in 2004 to 46.5 billion kroner in 2012. According to Ugebrevet A4, Asian owners are primarily targeting Danish biotech, cleantech and pharmaceutical businesses.

American ownership has dropped five percent to 64.5 billion kroner over the same period, however, while the value of Australian and New Zealand ownership dropped a massive 48 percent to 3.6 billion kroner. African ownership also dropped from around one billion kroner to 0.3 billion kroner.

Ugebrevet A4's study was conducted using figures provided by information services company Experian.