Another look at Iceland investment opportunity

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The Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, announced at a London, England, conference that the economy has a bright future and that the time is right for foreign investors to return to Iceland.

I took special notice of Gunnlaugsson’s comments last week because I participated in a media tour of the country earlier this year and reported on the agricultural business opportunities in the country. As I noted, low-cost electricity from geo-thermal generating facilities is a big advantage for energy-dependent operations to locate in Iceland, which could be mega greenhouses and agribusinesses needing perfect climate control year round.    

In his keynote speech at Mergermarket’s Iceland Investment Forum, the Prime Minister announced: "It is five years since the financial crisis hit Iceland. We have come a long way since then. There are good foundations in Iceland that have helped us along; a resilient and well-educated population, a young and flexible labor force, abundant resources and beautiful nature that is attracting ever more visitors from abroad. The future for my country is, therefore, bright."

Mergermarket, an independent mergers and acquisitions intelligence and data service, hosted senior business executives in London to examine the opportunities in Iceland’s emerging sectors.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been recognized as a priority for the new government, with policies aimed to diversify the economy into industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, tourism and data centers.

Successive years of economic growth, falling unemployment and currency devaluation have contributed to Iceland shaking off the hangover of its financial crisis, speakers at the conference contended.

Höskuldur H. Ólafsson, CEO at Arion Bank, said: “At Arion Bank we are a committed participant in the rebuilding of the Icelandic economy. The country's rich natural resources, the high level of education of its population and its location offer a whole range of opportunities. While the last few years have been challenging, the wheels of the economy are turning, unemployment levels are falling, economic growth exceeds the EU average and the outlook is bright.”

During the last quarter of this year, there was one major business transaction in Iceland that included a biotech business opportunity and a couple other business transactions with no connection to agriculture.

Pamela Barbaglia, London bureau chief at Mergermarket, said: “The recent activity in cross-border M&A [mergers and acquisitions] shows how recently inflicted ‘scars’ haven’t undermined the attractiveness of premium assets. Iceland’s political class now has to prove that the recovery is sustainable and its economy has effectively diversified into manufacturing and services, while supporting young entrepreneurs and easing fiscal pressure over domestic businesses.”

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