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Foreign direct investment reviews 2023: A global perspective

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A guide to navigating the rules for investing in countries that require foreign direct investment approval.


Now in its seventh year of annual publication, White & Case's Foreign Direct Investment Reviews provides a comprehensive look into rapidly evolving foreign direct investment (FDI) laws and regulations in approximately 40 national jurisdictions and two regions. This 2023 edition includes more than 15 new jurisdictions in addition to those covered in previous editions and summarizes high-level principles in the European Union and Middle East. Our expansion in coverage reflects the rapid global proliferation of FDI regimes and our market leading position in the field.

FDI regimes are wide-reaching in scope, from national security to public health and safety, law and order, technological superiority, and continuity and integrity of critical supply chains. They are divergent with respect to jurisdictional triggers across countries, and are almost always a black-box process.

The following are some general observations, in large part based on the 2022 CFIUS and EU annual reports:

  • The number of FDI regimes and regulatory enhancements is growing around the world, particularly in Europe. In 2021 and 2022, four EU Member States—Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands and Slovakia—implemented new FDI regimes, and in 2023, Sweden and Belgium are slated to adopt FDI screening measures (in addition to non-member Switzerland).
  • FDI regulators, at least from allied nations, are collaborating and learning from each other. CFIUS reported at its first annual conference in 2022 that it continues to host training sessions for US allies so that they can adopt similar regimes.
  • FDI regulators interpret their jurisdiction and authority broadly, especially if they believe it is in the national interest. Many regulators have "call-in," "ex officio," or "non-notified" authority.
  • Despite increased regulation, most cross-border transactions are successfully consummated, although there has been an increase in the number of cases clearing with remedies.
  • The origin of the investor remains a key concern for Western regulators. For example, China and Russia are included more and more in CFIUS's regular Q&A, asking broader and more invasive questions.

Investors conducting cross-border business need to understand FDI restrictions as they are today—and how these laws are evolving over time—to avoid disruption to realizing synergies, achieving technological development and integration, and ultimately securing liquidity.

We would like to extend a special thank-you to all of our external authors, who have provided some insightful commentary on the FDI regimes in a number of important jurisdictions. The names of these individual contributors and their law firms are provided throughout this publication.

We would also like to extend a special thank-you to James Hsiao of our Hong Kong office and Tim Sensenig of our Washington, DC office for their tireless efforts and dedication to the publication of this edition.



The Canadian government announced a strict framework to evaluate foreign investments in the critical minerals sector by state-owned enterprises and state-linked private investors, especially if from “non-likeminded” countries.

canada fdi 2022


Foreign direct investments, whether undertaken directly or indirectly, are generally allowed without restrictions or without the need to obtain prior authorization from an administrative agency.

mexico fdi 2022

United States

Most deals are approved, but expanded jurisdiction, mandatory filings applying in certain cases, enhanced focus on national security considerations, and a substantially increased pursuit of non-notified transactions have changed the landscape.

United States of America



Driven by the European Commission's guidance, Member States keep expanding their investment screening regimes. A similar trend is observed in Europe at large.

european union fdi 2022


In Austria, the Austrian Federal Investment Control Act (Investitionskontrollgesetz or the ICA) introduced a new, fully fledged regime for the screening of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and came into effect on July 25, 2020. With its wide scope of application and extensive interpretation by the competent authority, the number of screened investments has soared.

austria fdi 2022


Belgium implements an FDI screening regime by July 1, 2023.


Czech Republic

The new Foreign Investments Screening Act took effect in May 2021, and completed its first full year in operation in 2022.

czech republic fdi 2022


The scope of the Danish FDI regime is comprehensive and requires a careful assessment of investments and agreements involving Danish companies.

denmark fdi 2022


Estonia will have in place an FDI review regime by September 2023.

estonia fdi 2022


Deals are generally not blocked in Finland.



In France, FDI screening authorities have issued new guidelines to improve the transparency of the FDI process.

france fdi 2022


The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy continues to tighten FDI control, but the investment climate remains liberal in principle.

germany fdi 2022


The need for FDI screening remains in focus for deals with Hungarian dimensions.

hungary fdi 2022


Ireland anticipates adopting and implementing an FDI screening regime by Q1 2023.

ireland fdi 2022


Italian "Golden Power Law:" Ten years old and continuously expanding its reach.


Republic of Latvia

The Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine has precipitated the inclusion of provisions blocking Russian and Belarussian nationals from direct investment in a number of sectors.



All investments concerning national security are under the scope of review.



Luxembourg has introduced a bill of law to regulate foreign direct investments. The law is currently being discussed before the Luxembourg Parliament.



Malta's recently introduced FDI regime captures a substantial number of transactions that must be notified to the authorities and, in some cases, will be subject to screening.


Middle East

The Middle East continues opening to foreign investment, subject to licensing approvals and ownership thresholds for certain business sectors or in certain geographical zones.

Middle East


The Netherlands prepares for its first effective year of new FDI regulation.



Changes in the geopolitical situation have resulted in increased awareness of security threats caused by strategic acquisitions and access to sensitive technology. The ongoing review of the FDI regulations in Norway is expected to result in more effective mechanisms to identify and deal with security threats in transactions and investors should be prepared to take this into account when planning future investments in Norwegian companies that engage in sensitive activities.



The Polish FDI regime governing the acquisitions of covered entities by non-EEA and non-OECD buyers has been extended until July 2025.



Transactions involving foreign natural or legal persons that allow direct or indirect control over strategic assets may be subject to FDI screening.



The Romanian regime regarding foreign direct investment has undergone a major change in 2022, when new legislation was enacted, and is aimed at implementing relevant European Union legislation.


Russian Federation

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) tends to impose increased scrutiny in the sphere of foreign investments and has developed a number of amendments to the foreign investments laws that are aimed at eliminating legislative gaps in this sphere.

Russian Federation


On November 29, 2022, Slovakia, for the first time, adopted full-fledged foreign direct investment legislation. This legislation is effective as of March 1, 2023.



Since May 31, 2020, certain foreign investments into Slovenian companies can be subject to review. Acquisition of real estate related to critical infrastructure may also be subject to review.



The restrictions imposed by the Spanish government on foreign direct investments during the COVID-19 outbreak have remained after the pandemic.



Other than security-related screening, Sweden is currently still without a general FDI screening mechanism.



Historically, Switzerland has been very liberal regarding foreign investments. However, there has recently been increased political pressure to create a more structured legal regime for foreign investment.



Making Türkiye an attractive investment destination continues to be a priority for the government.


United Arab Emirates

Foreign direct investment is permissible in the UAE, subject to applicable licensing and ownership conditions.


United Kingdom

The UK’s National Security & Investment Act has now been in place for a year and has already made its mark, prohibiting deals on national security grounds and also requiring remedies in cases that are not subject to the mandatory notification requirement.  We expect a continued tough approach over the next year as global geo-political tensions bring national security concerns to the fore.




Australia requires a wide variety of investments by foreign investors to be reviewed and approved before completion of the investment.



China has further developed its national security regulatory regime by promulgating measures on cybersecurity review and security assessment of cross-border data transfer.



India continues to be an attractive destination for foreign investment, ranking as the world's seventh-largest recipient of FDI in 2021.



The Japanese government continues to review filings and refine its approach under the FDI regime following the 2019 amendments.



Korea is increasing the level of scrutiny of foreign investments due to growing concerns over the transfer of sensitive technologies.


New Zealand

Recent legislative reforms have increased the New Zealand government's ability to take national interest considerations into account, but have also looked to exclude lower-risk transactions from consent requirements.

New Zealand


All FDIs are subject to prior approval, but the investment climate is welcoming and liberal.


Foreign direct investment reviews 2023: Malta

Malta's recently introduced FDI regime captures a substantial number of transactions that must be notified to the authorities and, in some cases, will be subject to screening.

9 min read

Luca Amato (Fenech and Fenech Advocates) authored this publication

Malta's foreign direct investment (FDI) regime was introduced in 2020 by virtue of the National Foreign Direct Investment Screening Office Act (Chapter 620, Laws of Malta) (the "Act"), which in turn implements the provisions of Regulation (EU) 2019/452 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2019, establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments into the Union.

The provisions of the Act cover certain FDIs made or planned to be made in Malta and applies to all persons involved in such FDIs

The Act establishes the Maltese FDI screening office (NFDISO), whose role is to exercise regulatory functions regarding the screening of FDIs in Malta on grounds of security or public order. To this end, the NFDISO's functions inter alia include: (i) establishing a mechanism, rules and procedures to screen FDIs carried out in Malta that may affect the security or public order of Malta; (ii) commencing ex officio investigations on investments that may qualify as FDIs; (iii) carrying out screening procedures; (iv) assessing, investigating, authorizing, conditioning, prohibiting and unwinding FDIs on grounds of security or public order in Malta; (v) reporting FDI data to the European Commission on an annual basis; (vi) establishing, implementing and participating in the cooperation mechanism established in Regulation (EU) 2019/452; and (vii) liaising with responsible authorities of third countries on issues relating to the screening of FDIs.

The provisions of the Act cover certain FDIs made or planned to be made in Malta and applies to all persons involved in such FDIs, including foreign (non-EU) investors aiming to establish or to maintain lasting and direct links in order to carry out economic activity in Malta, and include investments that enable effective participation in the management or control of a company carrying out an economic activity in Malta and any investments made pursuant to a public procurement process. It does not, however, apply to portfolio investments.

"Foreign investor" is defined as a natural person or an undertaking of a third (non-EU) country intending to make or having made an FDI in Malta.

FDIs that fall under the jurisdiction of the Act need to be notified to the NFDISO, which will, in certain cases, determine that the transaction shall be subject to screening in terms of the screening mechanism outlined in the Act.

Who files

The Act obliges foreign investors and all persons involved in an FDI that falls under the jurisdiction of the Act to notify NFDISO regarding the investment and to provide certain information regarding the entity carrying out the investment. Such information includes the ownership structure and ultimate beneficial ownership of the investor, the value of the investment, the products, services and business operations of the foreign investor, and the source of funds for the investment. Additionally, the NFDISO may request any other information as it may reasonably require for the proper performance of its functions under the Act.

The notification is made via NFDISO's online portal and must be signed by a company director of the foreign investor and the relevant advisory firm or agent assisting with the notification.

Types of deals reviewed

Due to the broad wording of the law, the Maltese FDI law covers a substantial number of transactions

The Act covers certain foreign direct investments made or planned to be made in Malta. A "foreign direct investment" is defined as an investment of any kind by a foreign investor aiming to establish or to maintain lasting and direct links to carry on an economic activity in Malta, including investments that enable effective participation in the management or control of a company based in Malta.

"Management or control" is in turn defined in the Act as the possibility of exercising decisive influence on an undertaking, in particular: (a) through ownership or the right to use all or part of the assets of an undertaking; or (b) through rights or contracts that confer decisive influence on the composition, voting or decisions of the organs of an undertaking; provided that even persons or undertakings not holding such rights or entitled to such rights under the contract concerned are deemed to have acquired control if they have the power to exercise the rights deriving therefrom.

The Act outlines a number of scenarios where mandatory notification of FDIs is required, as follows: (a) where an investment that affects any of the factors or activities mentioned in the Schedule of the Act is planned to be carried out in the future; (b) where, having carried out an investment in Malta, the business activity of a foreign investor is changing to one that affects any of the factors or activities mentioned in the Schedule of the Act; (c) where, having carried out an investment in Malta that affects any of the factors or activities mentioned in the Schedule, the ownership structure of an investor changes such that at least 10 percent becomes owned by foreign investors; (d) where, having carried out an investment, the direct or indirect controlling interest of a company or a group company changes and passes onto a foreign investor.

When the foreign investor is a body corporate, then the obligation to notify the investment to the NFDISO in the above instances is triggered where at least 10 percent of the share in the investor is directly or indirectly owned by a third (non-EU) country national or an undertaking of a third country.

The activities and factors that are mentioned in the Schedule of the Act are considerably wide and, when considered together, capture a substantial number of FDI investments.

The activities are:

  • Critical infrastructure, whether physical or virtual, including energy, transport, water, health, communications, media, data processing or storage, aerospace, defense, electoral or financial infrastructure, and sensitive facilities, as well as land and real estate crucial for the use of such infrastructure
  • Critical technologies and dual-use items as defined in point 1 of Article 2 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009 (15), including artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, cybersecurity, aerospace, defense, energy storage, quantum and nuclear technologies, as well as nanotechnologies and biotechnologies
  • Supply of critical inputs, including energy or raw materials, as well as food security
  • Access to sensitive information, including personal data, or the ability to control such information and
  • The freedom and pluralism of the media

The factors to be considered are:

  • Whether the foreign investor is directly or indirectly controlled by the government of a third country, including state bodies or armed forces, through ownership structure or significant funding
  • Whether the foreign investor has already been involved in activities affecting security or public order in an EU Member State or
  • Whether there is a serious risk that the foreign investor engages in illegal or criminal activities

Scope of the review and sanctions

Once an investment has been notified to the NFDISO, it shall within five (5) days determine whether the investment will be subject to screening. In reaching its decision, the NFDISO will consider whether the investment may affect the security or public order of Malta on the basis of the aforementioned activities and factors. In making its assessment, the NFDISO may request any necessary additional information from the foreign investor and may seek the clarifications and explanations that it may deem necessary for its deliberations and conclusions.

Where the NFDISO concludes that the foreign direct investment shall not be subject to screening, it shall, within five (5) business days from the date of its decision, inform the foreign investor of its decision.

If the NFDISO concludes that the foreign direct investment shall be subject to screening, it shall inform the foreign investor within five (5) business days from the date of its decision, and trigger the cooperation mechanism in terms of articles 6 and 7 of Regulation (EU) 2019/452, and it shall, within sixty (60) calendar days, determine whether the foreign direct investment may affect the security or public order of Malta.

Where the NFDISO concludes that the foreign direct investment affects the security or public order of Malta, it may condition, prohibit or unwind such an investment, as the case may be, and it shall inform the foreign investor in writing of its decision. The notification of the decision shall include the NFDISO's reasoning and justification. In such cases, the investor shall not be entitled to claim any compensation or reimbursement.

If the NFDISO determines that an investment shall be subjected to one or more conditions, it shall permit the foreign investor to take all necessary measures in order to satisfy the said conditions within a reasonable time period. Should the investor fail to satisfy these within the prescribed period, the NFDISO shall prohibit or unwind the investment.

Similarly, if an investment is declared unwound, the NFDISO shall permit the foreign investor to reverse or modify the investment within a reasonable time period. Failure to do so within the prescribed time would entitle the NFDISO to commence judicial proceedings before the Civil Court for the unwinding of the investment.

The NFDISO is also empowered by law to impose administrative penalties ranging from not less than €1,000 for failure to provide information, to not more than €100,000 for providing incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete information.

Appeals to any decision of the NFDISO or the imposition of administrative penalties are allowed by bringing an action before the Administrative Review Tribunal.

Due to the broad wording of the law, the Maltese FDI law covers a substantial number of transactions, particularly in the context of the notification requirement. This is because the activities that are mentioned in the Schedule are drafted in a broad manner, particularly under limb (a) which covers sectors ranging from energy and health, to more commonplace industries such as media, communications and data processing or storage.

Nonetheless, the number of investments that are actually subjected to screening have been low because the NFDISO considers whether the investment is occurring in a company that impacts the security or public order in Malta.

How foreign investors can protect themselves

Prudent foreign (non-EU) investors would do well to take a cautious approach and notify the NFDISO whenever an investment is planned in a Maltese business that operates in the relevant sectors. Maltese law does not outline a specific point when the investment needs to be notified. In practice, it makes sense to notify the NFDISO whenever an investment is reliably deemed to occur, such as the period immediately following the signature of a share purchase agreement. Indeed, it is nowadays commonplace to include the obtaining of regulatory consent by the NFDISO as a condition precedent to completion in such agreements.

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This article is prepared for the general information of interested persons. It is not, and does not attempt to be, comprehensive in nature. Due to the general nature of its content, it should not be regarded as legal advice.

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