Foreign Investment:

Trends in Foreign Ownership of U.S. Farmland and Commercial Real Estate

NSIAD-89-168FS: Published: Jul 10, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the extent of and trends in foreign direct investment in agricultural land and commercial real estate nationwide and in North Dakota.

GAO found that: (1) in 1988, 7,790 foreigners held 1 percent of U.S. farmland, comprising about 12.5 million acres worth about $9.5 billion; (2) foreigners from the United Kingdom held 22.3 percent, those from Canada held 20 percent, and those from France and West Germany each held 9 percent of the foreign-owned U.S. farmland; (3) foreigners held about 0.07 percent of privately owned farmland in North Dakota, with Canadians holding 64 percent of foreign-owned land; (4) in 1986, foreign companies had 4,278 U.S. commercial real estate affiliates with total assets of $67.75 billion and ownership of 2.53 million acres, with Canadian companies owning $21.7 billion, British companies owning $11.6 billion, Japanese companies owning $6 billion, and Kuwaiti companies owning $5 billion in assets; (5) from 1977 to 1986, foreign companies' U.S. real estate values increased almost tenfold and their acreage more than doubled; (6) U.S. affiliates of foreign companies held about $27 million in assets in commercial real estate in North Dakota, up $1 million from 1977, with the Netherlands holding the largest share; and (7) the Department of Commerce's failure to include the real estate holdings of firms not primarily involved in real estate has resulted in a serious undercounting of real estate holdings.

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