World foreign investment flows are projected to recover to the pre-crisis level of $1.4 to $1.6 trillion in 2011, although debt crises in the rich world could hurt the recovery, the UN warned Tuesday.
"The recovery of FDI (foreign direct investment) flows will continue in 2011 and will reach a total of some $1.4 to $1.6 trillion (about 1.1 trillion euros), thus returning to the pre-crisis average," according to the annual world investment report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
"Thereafter, flows are forecast to rise to $1.7 trillion in 2012 and $1.9 trillion in 2013," it added.
However, the forecast could be scuppered by debt crises in the developed world and overheating in emerging economies.
"If there is a double-dip recession, there will be serious effects" on the world economy, said James Zhang, who heads UNCTAD's investment and enterprise division.
But while poor economic indicators could hurt investment, Zhang noted they could also spark opportunities.
"If governments are in heavy debt, one measure is to sell state assets. That may generate opportunities for transnational corporations to get in to acquire these assets," he said.
In addition, Zhang said some governments which have injected funds into companies may also "accelerate their exit from these firms" in the next few years.
"That creates further opportunities for investment entry for FDIs," he said.
After all, large corporations are sitting on a mountain of cash.
"Firms have a record level of cash in their pockets, it reached close to $5 trillion -- a historic high and even twice as much as pre-crisis levels," Zhang pointed out.
Overall, the United States remained the biggest foreign investor country as well as the largest receiver of inflows in 2010.
China was the second largest recipient of inflows, followed by Hong Kong.
Germany meanwhile was the second biggest investor, followed by France.