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International Investing – Belgium

January 10, 2014

The world is a big place – there are over 190 countries and 7 billion people in the world, which really boggles the mind if you sit down and think about it. In addition to being an interesting intellectual exercise, this fact can also have broad implications for your investments and your financial future. It is easy to stay focused on U.S. firms, news, and events during the day-to-day grind, but it is always important to be aware of your surroundings – especially when it comes to your investments. With that in mind, this series of articles will focus on countries and investment opportunities outside the United States that you might not usually hear about.

As always, be sure to consult a financial services professional familiar with both the potential investment and your unique financial situation before embarking on any investment program.

Belgium

Belgium, as a county and possible investment opportunity, is often overlooked due to the shadows cast by its much larger neighbors — Germany and France. Brussels, however, is not only the capital of Belgium, but it is also the seat of E.U. Commission which makes Brussels, by default, the capital of Europe. As the home of all major E.U. institutions, and a major hub of the European continental rail network, Belgium is literally the center of the action. The nation is home to 53,000 corporations, many of which are MNCs.

There are many reasons to consider putting funds to work in Belgium, the least of which is E.U. politics. With a traditionally multilingual workforce in the region (French and Dutch), and close proximity to both Paris and London by rail, the country can attract and retain a highly skilled workforce. A government that is highly accommodative of business, though tax breaks and a lighter regulatory structure, is another factor that helps to create a hospitable investment environment. Last but not least, with its location at the center of the E.U. and as home to over 13,000 lobbyists (second only to Washington D.C.), entities in Belgium have excellent access to the over 500 million customers in the E.U.

When looking at investing in Belgium, there are two primary ways to go about it – ADRs or direct purchases. An ADR is basically a certificate held by a U.S. banking institution that represents a certain number of shares in the foreign company, and is held by the U.S. institution. This helps to cut down on the administrative fees and other costs that would otherwise be incurred. For more direct exposure, you can also purchase shares directly from Belgian stock exchanges if your broker offers those services to its retail investor base (you and me).

Financial services and highly skilled manufacturing are two industries that dominate the Belgian economy. The most famous Belgian firm is, most likely, Anheuser-Busch InBev, but there are several other global giants originating in Belgium. KBC Group, and Ageas represent finances and insurance, respectively, and Solvay is an international chemical manufacturer. Almost more importantly, the number of multinationals that have offices in Belgium creates a very hospitable environment for business and businesspeople.

As always, I have attached some links with more information

Happy Reading!

http://www.amcham.be/
http://ib.fgov.be/en/
http://www.belgium.be/en/economy/invest_in_belgium/
http://www.amcham.be/BusinessInfo/InvestinginBelgium/tabid/85/Default.aspx

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