Northern Highlights

 Historically, Finland and Germany have strong relations and a similar business culture, making them natural business partners. Marc Lehnfeld, Director of Germany Trade & Invest’s Helsinki office, talks to us about working with Europe’s northeast territories.

July, 2018

GTAI’s northernmost overseas office in Helsinki has been run by Marc Lehnfeld since 2016. It surveys market activities for Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and is the first contact point for local firms interested in expanding to Germany. The close cooperation between GTAI, the German-Finnish Chamber of Commerce (AHK) and the German embassy boosts Germany’s visibility in the northern territories.

Mr. Lehnfeld, how would you characterize the Finnish economy?

Marc Lehnfeld: In Germany, Finland is well-known for its sauna culture, beautiful nature and large forests. The forest industry is still the country’s largest export sector but the chemical, mining and metal industries also play an important role. Nokia is once again Finland’s largest company and IT is still an important field with many startups entering the market.

What attracts Finnish investors to Germany as a business location?

Lehnfeld: Germany is the largest European economy and that means a lot to Finnish companies, whose home market consists of only 5.5m inhabitants. Also, Germany is a technology market with important target sectors like the automotive, chemical, machinery and metal industries. Many Finnish IT companies offer competitive products and services for Germany’s fast-growing IoT segment. Finnish companies appreciate the similar business culture and the historically strong relations.

The annual startup event Slush in Helsinki, Finland, (December 4 to 5, 2018) attracts international startups and investors to the Nordic country. © Slush 2017, Samuli Pentti

How can GTAI support Finnish companies that want to invest in Germany?
And does GTAI cooperate in this field with ­partners like the AHK?

Lehnfeld: Being a public organization, GTAI is a trusted partner of Finnish companies and institutions. We can identify the best locations within Germany for the investor and deliver valuable information about the regulatory framework and available incentives, all free of charge. In particular, the AHK promotes our services and is an important gateway for us. Through our close cooperation, we also advise the Chamber’s customers on their investment plans in Germany – usually the second step after a successful market entry.

What was the most important investment by a Finnish company in ­Germany last year?

Lehnfeld: It is hard to name just one, but we advised IT company Arcusys and artificial intelligence company DAIN Studios on their business set-up in Germany. But one of the most significant investment projects is Finnish energy company Fortum’s recent acquisition of 47 per cent of Uniper shares.