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Germany top place in Europe to do business: US firms

Published on 11/02/2009

Berlin -- American firms have ranked Germany as the top place in Europe to do business, according to a study.

The study of 61 top American companies, including Microsoft, Nike and McDonalds, also placed Germany ahead of Eastern Europe, Britain, France and Spain. It is the first time Europe’s powerhouse has topped the poll since it began in 2004. The Boston Consulting Group published the poll earlier this week.

"Because clients are demanding more security in these troubled times, companies are placing particular emphasis on high quality products and processes,” said BCG’s head in Germany, Christian Veith. “This is what you find in Germany."

Fred B. Irwin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, which commissioned the study, said Germany’s strengths outweighed its perceived weaknesses — high labor costs, tax burdens and low economic growth.

The research also revealed that American companies are pinning their hopes on improved transatlantic relations in the wake of Barack Obama becoming president last month.

A huge majority (86 percent) said American-German economic relations would improve, with only 14 percent believing they would stay the same. Not a single firm surveyed said economic ties would deteriorate under an Obama administration.

Nevertheless, the financial crisis has undoubtedly affected the corporate mood. Nearly half (41 percent) said they would reduce their workforce in Germany in 2009, compared to 16 percent in 2008.

However, one third of US firms said they intended to increase their investment in Germany in 2009, with 17 percent predicting a reduction. Around half (51 percent) said investment levels would not change.

Businesses said they felt less buffeted by the financial crisis in Germany than in other locations.

"Our members have assured us that Germany is still an especially attractive market because of its relatively stable housing market, high purchasing power and low household debt," Irwin said.

But the companies also said they would like to see a greater number of well-qualified graduates emerging from German schools and universities. Engineers are especially hard to find, the poll showed.

The 61 firms surveyed have a combined turnover of 110 billion euros (143 billion dollars) and employ 250,000 people in Germany, the survey said.