What Is A Brownfield Investment? Brownfield Investment In A Nutshell

A brownfield investment normally occurs when an organization wants to begin operating in a new country without incurring the expensive start-up costs associated with a greenfield investment. For the purposes of this article, a greenfield investment is one where a new production facility is constructed from scratch.  A brownfield investment is the lease or purchase of a pre-existing production facility in a foreign country.

Brownfield InvestmentBrownfield investment refers to a type of investment in which a company or investor acquires, redevelops, or repurposes existing facilities, properties, or assets, typically in the context of real estate or industrial projects. Unlike greenfield investments, which involve building on undeveloped land, brownfield investments involve revitalizing and enhancing existing infrastructure.
CharacteristicsExisting Infrastructure: Brownfield investments involve the use of existing facilities or properties with infrastructure already in place.
Environmental Considerations: Brownfields may have environmental issues or contamination, requiring remediation efforts.
Reinvestment: Investors often seek to redevelop or repurpose the site for a different or upgraded use.
Cost-Effective: Brownfield investments can be more cost-effective than greenfield projects due to existing infrastructure.
Urban Renewal: They often contribute to urban renewal and revitalization efforts.
MotivationsCost Savings: Reusing existing infrastructure can be more cost-effective than starting from scratch.
Location Advantage: Brownfields are often located in strategic or urban areas, providing location advantages.
Sustainability: Repurposing existing sites aligns with sustainability goals by reducing the need for new construction.
Regulatory Compliance: Investors may receive incentives for cleaning up and redeveloping contaminated sites, complying with regulations.
ExamplesIndustrial Redevelopment: Converting an abandoned factory into a modern industrial park.
Commercial Revitalization: Transforming an old shopping mall into a mixed-use retail and residential complex.
Environmental Remediation: Cleaning up a contaminated site and repurposing it for safe use, such as a park.
Infrastructure Upgrades: Expanding and upgrading existing transportation hubs, like airports or ports.
ChallengesEnvironmental Cleanup: Dealing with contamination and environmental remediation can be costly and complex.
Regulatory Compliance: Navigating regulations and obtaining permits for redevelopment.
Community Engagement: Gaining community support and addressing concerns.
Financing: Securing funding for both acquisition and redevelopment can be challenging.
Market Viability: Assessing whether the investment aligns with market demand and long-term viability.
BenefitsSustainability: Brownfield investments promote sustainable development by reusing existing resources.
Urban Renewal: They contribute to revitalizing urban areas and improving neighborhoods.
Cost-Efficiency: Utilizing existing infrastructure can lead to cost savings.
Regulatory Incentives: Investors may benefit from tax incentives and grants for remediation efforts.
Faster Development: Projects can often be completed more quickly compared to greenfield developments.
ConclusionBrownfield investments involve repurposing and revitalizing existing facilities or properties, offering a sustainable and cost-effective approach to development. While they come with challenges, such as environmental remediation and regulatory compliance, the benefits include contributing to urban renewal, conserving resources, and aligning with sustainability goals. Careful planning and community engagement are essential for successful brownfield investments.

Understanding a brownfield investment

A brownfield investment is a form of foreign direct investment which makes use of existing infrastructure by either merging, acquiring, or leasing that infrastructure. That is, the foreign company or individual invests in a business already established in another country. For the business entering a foreign country, this approach reduces costs and shortens the time to production.

While a brownfield investment is a low-cost, developed asset, it may still require ongoing capital expenditure. Many brownfield investments are associated with considerable development or construction as part of expansionary, enhancement, or retro-fitting programs. 

Brownfield investment examples

To understand how a brownfield investment plays out in the real world, consider these examples:


The British telecommunications company acquired a majority stake in Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth-largest mobile operator. The multi-billion investment saw Vodafone gain a controlling interest in the company. In the process, Vodafone established itself in the Indian telecom market through an established player.

Tata Motors

Indian automotive manufacturer Tata Motors acquired fellow British manufacturer Jaguar in 2008. The all-cash deal, worth $2.8 billion, gave Tata the right to establish a manufacturing plant and two design centers in the United Kingdom. 


In 2006, The Walt Disney Company acquired computer animation studio Pixar in a deal worth $7.4 billion. In acquiring Pixar, Disney gained access to advanced animated movie technology. The company also inherited Pixar’s unique culture and creative team, which it admitted was responsible for “some of the most innovative and successful films in history.

Advantages and disadvantages of brownfield investments


Quick access to a new market

Since much of the infrastructure is already provided, the company can enter a foreign market in a relatively short space of time. What’s more, the existing firm may have an established network of vendors, suppliers, and distributors.

Regulatory approvals

Similarly, an existing firm with environmental or bureaucratic approvals in place means the acquiring firm can begin operations sooner and save time and money. This advantage is likely to grow over time as environmental approvals become increasingly difficult to obtain.

Skilled employees

As we saw in the Disney acquisition of Pixar, some brownfield investments allow the controlling company to benefit from a skilled and productive workforce. In fact, it may be the sole reason a company makes such an investment in the first place. 


Outdated infrastructure

There is always the risk that a brownfield investment requires a major infrastructure upgrade. In some cases, the cost of the upgrade may be comparable to the cost of a greenfield investment.

Repatriation laws

Some countries impose restrictions on how much profit can be taken back to the home country of the acquiring company.

Buyer’s remorse

No matter how good the investment appears on paper, it is unlikely the acquiring company will find a facility with the type of capital, labor, equipment, and technology that suits its needs completely. The discomfort arising from buyer’s remorse must be prepared for and accepted if the business is to succeed in a less than ideal foreign market.

Case Studies

  • Brownfield Investment in Banking:
    • In 2008, the Belgian-Dutch financial services group Fortis sold its banking operations to BNP Paribas, a French international banking group, during the financial crisis. BNP Paribas was able to expand its European banking presence by leveraging the existing infrastructure of Fortis.
  • Brownfield Investment in Technology:
    • In 2014, Facebook acquired the instant messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion. By doing so, Facebook was able to tap into the vast user base of WhatsApp without starting its own messaging service from scratch.
  • Brownfield Investment in Aviation:
    • Air France-KLM, the French-Dutch airline holding company, acquired a stake in the troubled Italian airline Alitalia. This allowed Air France-KLM to strengthen its position in the Italian market without setting up a new airline operation in the country.
  • Brownfield Investment in Food & Beverage:
    • In 2010, Kraft Foods acquired the British confectionery company Cadbury. This allowed Kraft to benefit from Cadbury’s established brand and distribution network in the UK and other parts of the world.
  • Brownfield Investment in Retail:
    • In 1999, the American multinational retail corporation Walmart entered the German market by acquiring two German retail chains, Wertkauf and Interspar. This was Walmart’s attempt to leverage the existing infrastructure and stores of these chains to gain a foothold in Germany.
  • Brownfield Investment in Pharmaceuticals:
    • Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda acquired the Irish drug manufacturer Shire in 2018. This acquisition gave Takeda access to Shire’s range of medicines, research capabilities, and established market presence.
  • Brownfield Investment in Energy:
    • British energy company BP acquired a significant share of Russia’s Rosneft, allowing BP to tap into Russia’s vast oil and gas reserves using Rosneft’s existing infrastructure.
  • Brownfield Investment in Entertainment:
    • In 2018, the American entertainment company Comcast acquired the British television company Sky, benefiting from Sky’s established customer base and broadcast infrastructure across Europe.

Key takeaways:

  • A brownfield investment is the lease or purchase of a pre-existing production facility in a foreign country. Many such investments are associated with expansionary, enhancement, or retro-fitting programs.
  • An example of a brownfield investment is the Vodafone acquisition of Hutchison Essar to enter the Indian telecommunications market. Another example is Disney, which acquired Pixar to inherit its advanced computer animation studios and a team of creative designers.
  • Brownfield investments may help an organization enter a new market more efficiently with regulatory approvals, infrastructure, and a skilled workforce in place. However, there is a risk the acquired infrastructure is costly to maintain or replace. Some countries also enforce restrictive profit laws.

Key Highlights

  • Brownfield Investment: A brownfield investment is a form of foreign direct investment that involves utilizing existing infrastructure by merging, acquiring, or leasing an established business in a foreign country. This approach reduces start-up costs and accelerates time to production.
  • Examples of Brownfield Investments:
    • Vodafone: Acquiring a majority stake in Hutchison Essar to enter the Indian telecommunications market.
    • Tata Motors: Acquiring Jaguar in the UK, gaining manufacturing facilities and design centers.
    • Disney: Acquiring Pixar for advanced computer animation technology and a creative team.
  • Advantages of Brownfield Investments:
    • Quick access to a new market with existing infrastructure and networks.
    • Regulatory approvals already in place, saving time and money.
    • Access to a skilled and productive workforce.
  • Disadvantages of Brownfield Investments:
    • Outdated infrastructure may require significant upgrades.
    • Some countries impose restrictions on profit repatriation.
    • Acquiring company may not find a facility perfectly suited to its needs, leading to buyer’s remorse.

Main Free Guides:

Connected Financial Concepts

Circle of Competence

The circle of competence describes a person’s natural competence in an area that matches their skills and abilities. Beyond this imaginary circle are skills and abilities that a person is naturally less competent at. The concept was popularised by Warren Buffett, who argued that investors should only invest in companies they know and understand. However, the circle of competence applies to any topic and indeed any individual.

What is a Moat

Economic or market moats represent the long-term business defensibility. Or how long a business can retain its competitive advantage in the marketplace over the years. Warren Buffet who popularized the term “moat” referred to it as a share of mind, opposite to market share, as such it is the characteristic that all valuable brands have.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Venture Capital

Venture capital is a form of investing skewed toward high-risk bets, that are likely to fail. Therefore venture capitalists look for higher returns. Indeed, venture capital is based on the power law, or the law for which a small number of bets will pay off big time for the larger numbers of low-return or investments that will go to zero. That is the whole premise of venture capital.

Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment occurs when an individual or business purchases an interest of 10% or more in a company that operates in a different country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this percentage implies that the investor can influence or participate in the management of an enterprise. When the interest is less than 10%, on the other hand, the IMF simply defines it as a security that is part of a stock portfolio. Foreign direct investment (FDI), therefore, involves the purchase of an interest in a company by an entity that is located in another country. 


Micro-investing is the process of investing small amounts of money regularly. The process of micro-investing involves small and sometimes irregular investments where the individual can set up recurring payments or invest a lump sum as cash becomes available.

Meme Investing

Meme stocks are securities that go viral online and attract the attention of the younger generation of retail investors. Meme investing, therefore, is a bottom-up, community-driven approach to investing that positions itself as the antonym to Wall Street investing. Also, meme investing often looks at attractive opportunities with lower liquidity that might be easier to overtake, thus enabling wide speculation, as “meme investors” often look for disproportionate short-term returns.

Retail Investing

Retail investing is the act of non-professional investors buying and selling securities for their own purposes. Retail investing has become popular with the rise of zero commissions digital platforms enabling anyone with small portfolio to trade.

Accredited Investor

Accredited investors are individuals or entities deemed sophisticated enough to purchase securities that are not bound by the laws that protect normal investors. These may encompass venture capital, angel investments, private equity funds, hedge funds, real estate investment funds, and specialty investment funds such as those related to cryptocurrency. Accredited investors, therefore, are individuals or entities permitted to invest in securities that are complex, opaque, loosely regulated, or otherwise unregistered with a financial authority.

Startup Valuation

Startup valuation describes a suite of methods used to value companies with little or no revenue. Therefore, startup valuation is the process of determining what a startup is worth. This value clarifies the company’s capacity to meet customer and investor expectations, achieve stated milestones, and use the new capital to grow.

Profit vs. Cash Flow

Profit is the total income that a company generates from its operations. This includes money from sales, investments, and other income sources. In contrast, cash flow is the money that flows in and out of a company. This distinction is critical to understand as a profitable company might be short of cash and have liquidity crises.


Double-entry accounting is the foundation of modern financial accounting. It’s based on the accounting equation, where assets equal liabilities plus equity. That is the fundamental unit to build financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement). The basic concept of double-entry is that a single transaction, to be recorded, will hit two accounts.

Balance Sheet

The purpose of the balance sheet is to report how the resources to run the operations of the business were acquired. The Balance Sheet helps to assess the financial risk of a business and the simplest way to describe it is given by the accounting equation (assets = liability + equity).

Income Statement

The income statement, together with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement is among the key financial statements to understand how companies perform at fundamental level. The income statement shows the revenues and costs for a period and whether the company runs at profit or loss (also called P&L statement).

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement is the third main financial statement, together with income statement and the balance sheet. It helps to assess the liquidity of an organization by showing the cash balances coming from operations, investing and financing. The cash flow statement can be prepared with two separate methods: direct or indirect.

Capital Structure

The capital structure shows how an organization financed its operations. Following the balance sheet structure, usually, assets of an organization can be built either by using equity or liability. Equity usually comprises endowment from shareholders and profit reserves. Where instead, liabilities can comprise either current (short-term debt) or non-current (long-term obligations).

Capital Expenditure

Capital expenditure or capital expense represents the money spent toward things that can be classified as fixed asset, with a longer term value. As such they will be recorded under non-current assets, on the balance sheet, and they will be amortized over the years. The reduced value on the balance sheet is expensed through the profit and loss.

Financial Statements

Financial statements help companies assess several aspects of the business, from profitability (income statement) to how assets are sourced (balance sheet), and cash inflows and outflows (cash flow statement). Financial statements are also mandatory to companies for tax purposes. They are also used by managers to assess the performance of the business.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Financial Ratio


Financial Option

A financial option is a contract, defined as a derivative drawing its value on a set of underlying variables (perhaps the volatility of the stock underlying the option). It comprises two parties (option writer and option buyer). This contract offers the right of the option holder to purchase the underlying asset at an agreed price.

Read next:

Main Free Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top