From diggers to data centres

THERE have been three great waves of corporate investment in the past two decades. First came the dotcom splurge of 1997-2001, when cash was poured into building mobile-phone networks and the internet’s backbone. Then there was the emerging-market frenzy of 2003-10. Western firms threw about $2 trillion into factories and other facilities in places like China and India. In 2005-13 there was a craze for commodities, partly driven by insatiable Chinese demand. Global energy and metals firms spent $6 trillion digging in the Australian outback and drilling for oil in North Dakota and deep beneath Brazil’s coastal waters.

The dotcom boom turned to bust, emerging markets are now in poor shape and commodity prices have slumped in the past year (costing some firms’ bosses their jobs—see article). So where are companies looking to invest now? A new study by Hugo Scott-Gall, of Goldman Sachs, a bank, crunches the numbers for capital investment at more than 2,500 firms worldwide, forecasting how things will look in 2017...



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