Denmark is one of the world’s leading foreign investment destinations and ranks highly in indices measuring political, economic, and regulatory stability. It is a member of the European Union (EU), and Danish legislation and regulations conform to EU standards on virtually all issues. It maintains a fixed exchange rate policy, with the Danish Krone linked closely to the Euro. Denmark is a social welfare state with a thoroughly modern market economy heavily driven by trade in goods and services. Given that exports account for about 55 percent of GDP, the economic conditions of its major trading partners – the United States, Germany, Sweden, and the UK – have a substantial impact on Danish national accounts.
Denmark is a net exporter of food, fossil fuels, chemicals, and wind power, but its manufacturing sector depends on raw material imports. Within the EU, Denmark is among the strongest supporters of liberal trade policy. Transparency International regularly ranks Denmark as having among the world’s lowest levels of perceived public sector corruption.
Denmark’s underlying macroeconomic conditions are healthy, and the investment climate is sound. Denmark is strategically situated to link continental Europe with the Nordic and Baltic countries. Transport and communications infrastructures are efficient. Denmark is among world leaders in high-tech industries such as information technology, life sciences, clean energy technologies, and shipping.
Denmark initiated several compensation schemes to blunt the worst of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-April 2021, Denmark has committed up to 28.8 percent of GDP, or DKK 670 billion (USD 103 billion), in liquidity measures through postponed tax payments, loans and guarantees, and provided fiscal stimulus worth DKK 135 billion (USD 20.7 billion), which the Ministry of Finance estimate sustained 80,000 jobs, about three percent of the workforce. The Danish economy suffered a contraction of 3.3 percent of GDP in 2020. A protracted recovery is likely, and some business leaders call for longer-term measures to stimulate inward investment and support the export sector.
The entrepreneurial climate, including female-led entrepreneurship, is robust.
New legislation establishing a Foreign Investment Screening mechanism to ensure critical infrastructure integrity goes into effect on July 1, 2021Implementing regulations were in development when this report was published. The legislation does not apply to Greenland or to the Faroe Islands.
Note: Additional information on the investment climates in the constituent parts of the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, can be found at the end of this report.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||1 of 180||www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||4 of 190||www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||6 of 131||www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||USD 8,992||apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||USD 63,950|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
As a small country with an open economy, Denmark is highly dependent on foreign trade and investment. Exports comprise the most significant component (55 percent) of GDP. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranks Denmark as the world’s second-most attractive business location after Singapore and the leading nation in the Nordic region. The EIU characterizes Denmark’s business environment as among the most attractive globally, reflecting an excellent infrastructure, a friendly policy towards private enterprise and competition, low bureaucracy, and a well-developed digital sector. Principal concerns include low productivity growth, a high personal tax burden, and limited competition in the retail sector. Overall, however, operating conditions for companies are broadly favorable. Denmark ranks highly in multiple categories, including its political and institutional environment, macroeconomic stability, foreign investment policy, private enterprise policy, financing, and infrastructure.
As of January 2021, the EIU rated Denmark an “AA” country on its Country Risk Service, with a stable outlook. Sovereign risk is rated “A,” and political risk “AAA.” Denmark ranked tenth out of 140 on the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report, fourth on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business ranking, and seventh on the EIU 2020 Democracy Index. Denmark has an AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Group. “Invest in Denmark,” an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and part of the Danish Trade Council, provides detailed information to potential investors. Invest in Denmark has prioritized six sectors in its strategy to attract foreign investment: Tech, Cleantech, Life Science, Food, Maritime, and Design & Innovation. The website for the agency is .
Corporate tax records of all companies, associations, and foundations that pay taxes in Denmark were made public beginning in December 2012 and are updated annually. The corporate tax rate is 22 percent.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
As an EU member state, Denmark is bound by EU rules on the free movement of goods, capital, persons, and certain services. Denmark welcomes foreign investment and does not distinguish between EU and other investors. There are no additional permits required by foreign investors, nor any reported bias against foreign companies from municipal or national authorities.
Denmark’s central and regional governments actively encourage foreign investment on a national-treatment basis, with relatively few foreign control limits. The Danish government has presented legislation to establish a foreign investment screening mechanism, which is expected to come into force on July 1, 2021.
A foreign or domestic private entity may freely establish, own, and dispose of a business enterprise in Denmark. The capital requirement for establishing a corporation (Aktieselskab A/S) or Limited Partnership (Partnerselskab P/S) is DKK 400,000 (approx. USD 61,000) and for establishing a private limited liability company (Anpartsselskab ApS) DKK 40,000 (approx. USD 6,100).
As of April 15, 2019, it is no longer possible to set up an “Entrepreneurial Company” (IVS). This company type, which required a starting capital of only DKK 1 (USD 0.15), was structured to allow entrepreneurs a cheap and straightforward way to incorporate with limited liability. Due to repeated instances of fraud and unintended use of the IVS, this vehicle was abolished within Denmark but is still available in Greenland. In 2019, the capital requirements to set up a Private Limited Company were lowered, which brought Denmark more in line with other Scandinavian countries. No restrictions apply regarding the residency of directors and managers.
Since October 2004, any private entity may establish a European public limited company (SE company) in Denmark. The legal framework of an SE company is subject to Danish corporate law, but it is possible to change the nationality of the company without liquidation and re-founding. An SE company must be registered at the Danish Business Authority if its official address is in Denmark. The minimum capital requirement is EUR 120,000 (approx. USD 137,000).
Danish professional certification and/or local Danish experience are required to provide professional services in Denmark. In some instances, Denmark may accept equivalent professional certification from other EU or Nordic countries on a reciprocal basis. EU-wide residency requirements apply to the provision of legal and accountancy services.
Ownership restrictions apply to the following sectors:
- Oil and Gas: Requires 20 percent Danish government participation on a “non-carried interest” basis.
- Defense: The Minister of Justice must approve foreign investment in defense companies doing business in Denmark if such investment exceeds 40 percent of the equity or more than 20 percent of the voting rights, or if the investment gives the foreign interest a controlling share. This approval is generally granted unless there are security or other foreign policy considerations weighing against approval.
- Maritime Services: There are foreign (non-EU resident) ownership requirements on Danish-flagged vessels other than those owned by an enterprise incorporated in Denmark. Ships owned by Danish citizens, Danish partnerships, or Danish limited liability companies are eligible for registration in the Danish International Ships Register (DIS). Vessels owned by EU or European Economic Area (EEA) entities with a genuine, demonstrable link to Denmark are also eligible for registration. Foreign companies with a significant Danish interest can register a ship in the DIS.
- Civil Aviation: For an airline to be established in Denmark, it must have majority ownership and be effectively controlled by an EU state or a national of an EU state, unless otherwise provided for through an international agreement to which the EU is a signatory.
- Financial Services: Non-resident financial institutions may engage in securities trading on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange only through subsidiaries incorporated in Denmark.
- Real Estate: Ownership of holiday homes, also known as summer houses, is restricted to Danish citizens. Such homes are generally located along the Danish coastline and may not be used as full-year residences. On a case-by-case basis, the Ministry of Justice may waive the citizenship requirement for those with close familial, linguistic, cultural, or other close connections to Denmark or the specific property. In general, EU and EEA citizens may purchase full-year residential property or real estate that supports self-employment without obtaining prior authorization from the Ministry of Justice. Companies domiciled in an EU or an EEA Member State that have set up or will set up subsidiaries or agencies or will provide services in Denmark may, in general, also purchase real property in Denmark without prior authorization. Non-EU/EEA citizens must obtain authorization from the Ministry of Justice to purchase real estate in Denmark, which is generally granted to those with permanent residence in Denmark or who have lived in Demark for a consecutive period of five years.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The most recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) review of Denmark occurred in March 2013 and is available here: . There is no specific mention of Denmark in the latest WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union, revised in December 2019.
Denmark ranked first out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index. It received a ranking of four out of 190 for “Ease of Doing Business” in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, placing it first in Europe. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report for 2019, Denmark was ranked 10 out of 141 countries.
The World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Global Innovation Index ranked Denmark 6 out of 131 in 2020.
The Danish Business Authority (DBA) is responsible for business registrations in Denmark. As a part of the Danish Business Authority, “Business in Denmark,” provides information on relevant Danish rules and online registrations to foreign companies in English. The Danish business registration website, , is the principal digital tool for licensing and registering companies in Denmark and offers a business registration process that is clear and complete.
Registration of sole proprietorships and partnerships is free of charge. For other types of businesses, online registration costs DKK 670 (approx. USD 103). Registration by email or post costs DKK 2150 (approx. USD 329).
The process for establishing a new business is distinct from that of registration. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “Invest in Denmark” program provides a step-by-step guide to establishing a business at , along with other relevant resources at . The services are free of charge and available to all investors, regardless of country of origin.www.investindk.com/Downloads. The services are free of charge and available to all investors, regardless of country of origin.
Processing time for establishing a new business varies depending on the chosen business entity. Establishing a Danish Limited Liability Company (ApS), for example, generally takes four to six weeks for a standard application. Establishing a sole proprietorship (Enkeltmandsvirksomhed) is more straightforward, with processing generally taking about one week.
Those providing temporary services in Denmark must provide their company details to the Registry of Foreign Service Providers (RUT). The website ( ) provides English guidance on registering a service with RUT. A digital employee’s signature, referred to as a NemID, is required for those wishing to register a foreign company in Denmark. A CPR number (a 10-digit personal identification number) and valid ID are needed to obtain a NemID. Danish citizenship is not a requirement.
Denmark defines small enterprises as those with fewer than 50 employees. Annual revenue or the yearly balance sheet total must be lower than DKK 89 million (approx. USD 13.6 million) or DKK 44 million (approx. USD 6.7 million), respectively. Medium-sized enterprises cannot have more than 250 employees. Limits on annual revenue or the yearly balance sheet total are DKK 313 million (approx. USD 47.9 million) or DKK 156 million (approx. USD 23.9 million).
Danish companies are not restricted from investing abroad, and Danish outward investment has exceeded inward investments for more than a decade.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Denmark’s judicial system is highly regarded and considered fair. Its legal system is independent of the government’s legislative branch and includes written and consistently applied commercial and bankruptcy laws. Secured interests in property are recognized and enforced. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2019 Global Competitiveness Report ranked Denmark as the world’s tenth most competitive economy and fourth among EU member states, characterizing it as having among the best functioning and most transparent institutions in the world. Denmark ranks high on specific WEF indices related to macroeconomic stability (1st), labor market (3rd), business dynamism (3rd), institutions (7th), ICT adoption (9th), and skills (3rd).
To facilitate business administration, Denmark maintains only two “legislative days” per year—January 1 and July 1—as the only days when new laws and regulations affecting the business sector can come into effect. Danish laws and policies granting national treatment to foreign investments are designed to increase FDI in Denmark. Denmark consistently applies high standards to health, environment, safety, and labor laws. Danish corporate law is generally in conformity with current EU legislation. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are relatively transparent and follow international standards.
Bureaucratic procedures are streamlined and transparent; proposed laws and regulations are published in draft form for public comment. Public finances and debt obligations are transparent.
The Ministry of Taxation publishes and updates annually all companies’ corporate tax records. Greenland and the Faroe Islands retain autonomy for their respective tax policies.
The government uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition and establish “clear rules of the game,” consistent with international norms and applicable equally to Danish and foreign entities. The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority works to make markets well-functioning so that businesses compete efficiently on all parameters. The Authority is a government agency under the Danish Ministry of Industry, Business, and Financial Affairs. It enforces the Danish Competition Act. This Act, along with Danish consumer legislation, aims to promote efficient resource allocation in society, promote efficient competition, create a level playing field for enterprises, and protect consumers.
Publicly listed companies in Denmark must adhere to the Danish Financial Statements Act when preparing their annual reports. The accounting principles are International Accounting Standards (IAS), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and Danish Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Financial statements must be prepared annually. The Danish Financial Statements Act covers all businesses.
Private limited companies, public limited companies, and corporate funds are obliged to prepare financial statements under accounting classes determined by company size:
- Small businesses (Class B): Less than an annual average of 50 full-time employees and total assets not exceeding DKK 44 million (USD 6.7 million) or net revenue not exceeding DKK 89 million (USD 13.6 million) during the fiscal year.
- Medium-sized enterprises (Class C medium): Less than an annual average of 250 full-time employees and total assets not exceeding DKK 156 million (USD 23.9 million) or net revenue not exceeding DKK 313 million (USD 47.9 million) during the fiscal year.
- Large companies (Class C large): Companies that are neither small nor medium companies.
According to the Danish Financial Statements Act, personally owned businesses, personally owned general partnerships (multiple owners), and general funds are characterized as Class A; there is no requirement to prepare financial statements unless the owner voluntarily chooses to do so.
All government draft proposed regulations are published at “Høringsportalen” ( ) and are available for comment from interested parties. Following the comment period, the government may revise draft regulations before publication on the Danish Parliament’s website ( ). Final regulations are published at and . All ministries and agencies are required to publish proposed regulations. Denmark has a World Bank composite score of 4.75″ for the Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance, on a zero to five scale. Concerning governance, the World Bank suggests the following areas for improvement:
- Affected parties cannot request reconsideration or appeal adopted regulations to the relevant administrative agency.
- There is no existing requirement that regulations be periodically reviewed to see whether they should be revised or eliminated.
International Regulatory Considerations
Denmark adheres to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs); no inconsistencies have been reported.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Denmark’s decision-making power is divided into the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The principles of separation of power and an independent judiciary help ensure democracy and Danish citizens’ legal rights. The district courts, the high courts, and the Supreme Court represent the Danish legal system’s three basic levels. The legal system also comprises other institutions with special functions, e.g., the Maritime and Commercial Court.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The government agency “Invest in Denmark” is part of the Danish Trade Council and is situated within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The agency provides detailed information to potential investors. The website for the agency is . The Faroese government promotes Faroese trade and investment through its website . For further information concerning Greenland’s investment potential, please see Greenland Holding at or the Greenland Tourism & Business Council at .
As an EU member state, Denmark is bound by EU rules on the free movement of goods, capital, persons, and certain services. Denmark welcomes foreign investment and does not distinguish between EU and other investors. There are no additional permits required of foreign investors, nor any reported biases against foreign companies from municipal or national authorities.
The Danish government has presented legislation to establish a foreign investment screening mechanism, which is expected to enter into force on July 1, 2021. The screening mechanism would be in line with the EU investment screening framework encouraging member states to screen foreign investments in critical infrastructure and other sensitive sectors.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) reviews transactions for competition-related concerns. According to the Danish Competition Act, the CCA requires notification of mergers and takeovers if the aggregate annual revenue in Denmark of all undertakings involved is more than DKK 900 million (USD 137.7 million) and the aggregate yearly revenue in Denmark of each of at least two of the undertakings concerned is more than DKK 100 million (USD 15.3 million), or if the aggregate annual revenue in Denmark of at least one of the undertakings involved is more than DKK 3.8 billion (USD 581.5 million) and the aggregate yearly worldwide revenue of at least one of the other undertakings concerned is more than DKK 3.8 billion (581.5 million). When a merger results from the acquisition of parts of one or more undertakings, the calculation of the revenue referred to shall only comprise the share of the revenue of the seller or sellers that relates to the assets acquired. Merger control provisions are contained in Part Four of the and in the . Revenue is calculated under the .
A full notification of a merger must include the information and documents specified in the full notification form, . A simplified notification of a merger must include the information and documents specified in the simplified notification form, . From August 1, 2013, merger fees are payable for merger notifications submitted to the Competition and Consumer Authority. The fee for a simplified notification amounts to DKK 50,000 (USD 7,650). The fee for a full notification amounts to 0.015 percent of the aggregate annual turnover in Denmark of the undertakings involved; this fee is capped at DKK 1,500,000 (USD 230,000).
A merger or takeover is subject to approval by the CCA. Large-scale mergers also require approval from EU competition authorities.
Expropriation and Compensation
By law, private property can only be expropriated for public purposes, in a non-discriminatory manner, with reasonable compensation, and under established principles of international law. There have been no recent expropriations of significance in Denmark.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
There have been no significant investment disputes in Denmark in recent years. Denmark has been a member of the World Bank-based International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) since 1968. The ICSID Convention has been extended to include the Faroe Islands. Denmark is a party to the 1958 (New York) Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, meaning local courts must enforce international arbitration awards that meet specific criteria. Subsequent Danish legislation makes international arbitration of investment disputes binding in Denmark. Denmark declared in 1976 that the New York Convention applies to the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark is a party to the 1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration and to the 1962 Agreement relating to the application of this Convention. Denmark adopted the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration in 1985.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Monetary judgments under the bankruptcy law are made in freely convertible Danish Kroner. The bankruptcy law addresses creditors’ claims in the following order: (1) costs and debt accrued during the treatment of the bankruptcy; (2) costs, including the court tax, relating to attempts to find a solution other than bankruptcy; (3) wage claims and holiday pay; (4) excise taxes owed to the government; and (5) all other claims. In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Denmark ranks 6th in “resolving insolvency.”
4. Industrial Policies
Performance incentives are available to both foreign and domestic investors. Examples include grants or preferential financing in designated regional development areas. Investments in Greenland may be eligible for incentives as well. Foreign subsidiaries located in Denmark can participate in government-financed or subsidized research programs on a national-treatment basis.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The only free port in Denmark is the Copenhagen Free Port, operated by the Port of Copenhagen. The Port of Copenhagen and the Port of Malmö (Sweden) merged their commercial operations in 2001, including the free port activities, in a joint company named CMP. CMP is one of the largest port and terminal operators in the Nordic Region and one of the largest Northern European cruise ship ports; it occupies a key position in the Baltic Sea Region for the distribution of cars and transit of oil. The facilities in the Free Port are mainly used for tax-free warehousing of imported goods, for exports, and for in-transit trade. Tax and duties are not payable until cargo leaves the Free Port. The processing of cargo and the preparation and finishing of imported automobiles for sale can freely be set up in the Free Port. Manufacturing operations can be established with permission of the customs authorities, which is granted if special reasons exist for having the facility in the Free Port area. The Copenhagen Free Port welcomes foreign companies establishing warehouse and storage facilities.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Performance requirements are applied only in connection with investments in hydrocarbon exploration, where concession terms typically require a fixed work program, including seismic surveys and, in some cases, exploratory drilling, consistent with applicable EU directives. Performance requirements are primarily designed to protect the environment, mainly by encouraging reduced energy and water use. Several environmental and energy requirements are universally applied to households as well as businesses in Denmark, both foreign and domestic. For instance, Denmark was the first of the EU countries, in January 1993, to introduce a carbon dioxide (CO2) tax on business and industry. This includes specific reimbursement schemes and subsidy measures to reduce the costs for businesses, thereby safeguarding competitiveness.
Performance requirements are governed by Danish legislation and EU regulations. Potential violations of the rules governing this area are punishable by fines or imprisonment.
Performance requirements are applied uniformly to domestic and foreign investors.
The Danish government does not follow “forced localization” policies, nor does it require foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance. The Danish Data Protection Agency, a government agency, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry for Culture are the entities involved with data storage.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights in Denmark are well protected by law and in practice. Real estate is chiefly financed through the well-established Danish mortgage bond credit system, the security of which compares to that of government bonds. To comply with the covered bond definition in the EU Capital Requirements Directive (CRD), the Danish mortgage banking regulation was amended effective July 1, 2007. With the amended Danish mortgage banking regulation, commercial banks now have the same opportunities as mortgage banks and ship-financing institutions to issue covered bonds. Only issuers that have been granted a license from the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) are permitted to issue Danish covered bonds.
Secured interests in property are recognized and enforced in Denmark. All mortgage credits in real estate are recorded in local public registers of mortgages. Except for interests in cars and commercial ships, which are also publicly recorded, other property interests are generally unrecorded. The local public registers are a reliable system of recording security interests. Denmark is ranked 11th in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 Report for its ease of “registering property.” Denmark ranked 10th out of 129 countries in the Property Rights Alliance’s International Property Rights Index 2020, and 6th in its region.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property rights (IPR) in Denmark are well protected and enforced. Denmark has ratified and adheres to key international conventions and treaties concerning protection of IPR , including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and several treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
A list of attorneys in Denmark known to accept foreign clients can be found at . This list of attorneys and law firms is provided by the American Embassy as a convenience to U.S. citizens. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of attorneys in Denmark, and the absence of an attorney from the list is in no way a reflection on competence. A complete list of attorneys in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands may be found at the Danish Bar Association web site: .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Denmark has fully liberalized foreign exchange flows, including those for direct and portfolio investment purposes. Credit is allocated on market terms and is freely available. Denmark adheres to its IMF Article VIII obligations. The Danish banking system is under the regulatory oversight of the Financial Supervisory Authority. Differentiated voting rights – A and B stocks – are used to some extent, and several Danish companies are controlled by foundations, which can restrict potential hostile takeovers, including foreign takeovers.
The Danish stock market functions efficiently. In 2005, the Copenhagen Stock Exchange became part of the integrated Nordic and Baltic marketplace, OMX Exchanges, which is headquartered in Stockholm. Besides Stockholm and Copenhagen, OMX also includes the stock exchanges in Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. To increase the access to capital for primarily small companies, the OMX in December 2005 opened a Nordic alternative marketplace – “First North” – in Denmark. In February 2008, the exchanges were acquired by the NASDAQ-OMX Group. In the World Economic Forum 2019 report, Denmark ranks 11th out of 141 on the metric “Financial System”.
The Danish stock market is divided into four different branches/indexes. The C25 index contains the 25 most valuable companies in Denmark. Other large companies with a market value exceeding EUR 1 billion (USD 1.1 billion) are in the group of “Large Cap,” companies with a market value between EU 150 million (USD 171) and 1 billion Euro (USD 1.14 billion) belong to the “Mid Cap” segment, while companies with a market value smaller than EU 150 million belong to “Small Cap” group.
Money and Banking System
The major Danish banks are rated by international agencies, and their creditworthiness is rated as high by international standards. The European Central Bank and the Danish National Bank reported that Denmark’s major banks have passed stress tests by considerable margins.
Denmark’s banking sector is relatively large; based on the ratio of consolidated banking assets to GDP, the sector is three times bigger than the national economy. By January 2021, the total of Danish shares valued DKK 3.82 trillion (USD 584 billion) and were owned 52.5 percent by foreign owners and 47.5 percent by Danish owners, including 13 percent held by households and 7 percent by the government. The three largest Danish banks – Danske Bank, Nordea Bank Danmark, and Jyske Bank – hold approximately 75 percent of the total assets in the Danish banking sector.
The primary goal of the Central Bank (Nationalbanken) is to maintain the peg of the Danish currency to the Euro – with allowed fluctuations of 2.25 percent. It also functions as the general lender to Danish commercial banks and controls the money supply in the economy.
As occurred in many countries, Danish banks experienced significant turbulence in 2008 – 2009. The Danish Parliament subsequently passed a series of measures to establish a “safety net” program, provide government lending to financial institutions in need of capital to uphold their solvency requirements, and ensure the orderly winding down of failed banks. The Parliament passed an additional measure, the fourth Bank Package, in August 2011, which sought to identify systemically important financial institutions, ensure the liquidity of banks which assume control of a troubled bank, support banks acquiring troubled banks by allowing them to write off obligations of the troubled bank to the government, and change the funding mechanism for the sector-funded guarantee fund to a premiums-based, pay-as-you-go system. According to the Danish Government, Bank Package 4 provides mechanisms for a sector solution to troubled banks without senior debt holder losses but does not supersede earlier legislation. As such, senior debt holder losses are still a possibility in the event of a bank failure.
On October 10, 2013, the Danish Minister for Business and Growth concluded a political agreement with broad political support which, based on the most recent financial statements, identified specific financial institutions as “systemically important” (SIFI). The SIFI in Denmark at the end of 2019 were Danske Bank A/S, Nykredit Realkredit A/S, Jyske Bank A/S, Nordea Kredit Realkredit A/S, Sydbank A/S, Spar Nord Bank A/S and DLR Kredit A/S. These were identified based on three quantitative measures: 1) a balance sheet to GDP ratio above 6.5 percent; 2) market share of lending in Denmark above 5 percent; or 3) market share of deposits in Denmark above three percent. If an institution is above the requirement of any one of the three measures, it will be considered systemically important and must adhere to the stricter requirements on capitalization, liquidity, and resolution. The Faroese SIFI are P/F BankNordik, Betri Banki P/F and Norðoya Sparikassi, while Grønlandsbanken is the only SIFI in Greenland.
Experts expect a revision of the Danish system of troubled financial institution resolution mechanisms in connection with a decision to join the EU Banking Union. The national payment system, “Nets” was sold to a consortium consisting of Advent International Corp., Bain Capital LLC, and Danish pension fund ATP in March 2014 for DKK 17 billion (USD 2.60 billion). Nets went public with an IPO late 2016.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Exchange rate conversions throughout this document are based on the 2020 average exchange rate where Danish Kroner (DKK) 6.5343703 = 1 USD.
There are no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with an investment into or out of Denmark. Policies in place are intended to facilitate the free flow of capital and to support the flow of resources in the product and services markets. Foreign investors can obtain credit in the local market at normal market terms, and a wide range of credit instruments is available.
Denmark has not adopted the Euro currency. The country meets the EU’s economic convergence criteria for membership and can join if it wishes to do so. Denmark conducts a fixed exchange rate policy with the Danish Krone linked closely to the Euro within the ERM II framework. The Danish Krone (DKK; plural: Kroner, in English, “the Crown”) has a fluctuation band of +/- 2.25 percent of the central rate of DKK 746.038 per 100 Euro. The Danish Government supports inclusion in a European Banking Union, if it can be harmonized with the Danish Euro opt-out and there is a guarantee that the Danish mortgage finance system will be allowed to continue in its present form.
The Danish political reservation concerning Euro participation can only be abolished by national referendum, and Danish voters have twice (in 1992 and 2000) voted it down. The government has stated that it supports adopting the Euro in principle, but no referendum is expected for the foreseeable future. Regular polling on this issue shows a majority of public opinion remains in favor of keeping the Krone. According to the Stability and Growth Pact, a Euro country’s debt to GDP ratio cannot exceed 60 percent and budget deficit to GDP ratio cannot exceed three percent.
Denmark’s debt to GDP ratio is projected to have increased from 33.3 percent in 2019 to 43.5 percent in 2020 (final statistics for 2020 were pending when this report was published). Denmark is also projected to have run a 3.5 percent budget deficit in 2020, after running a 3.8 percent budget surplus in 2019 and a 0.7 percent surplus in 2018.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Denmark maintains no sovereign wealth funds.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Denmark is party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). State owned entities (SOEs) hold dominant positions in rail, energy, utilities, and broadcast media in Denmark. Large-scale public procurement must go through public tender in accordance with EU legislation. Competition from SOEs is not considered a barrier to foreign investment in Denmark. As an OECD member, Denmark promotes and upholds the OECD Corporate Governance Principals and subsidiary SOE Guidelines.
Denmark has no current plans to privatize its SOEs.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
As an OECD member, Denmark promotes, through the Danish Business Authority, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Denmark’s National Contact Point can be reached at: mneguidelines.oecd.org/National-Contact-Points-Website-Contact-Details.pdf
From January 1, 2016, the largest companies must account for their responsible business conduct, including with respect to human rights and to reducing the climate impact of the company’s activities. Additionally, target figures for the gender composition of the Board of Directors, as well as policies for increasing the proportion of the underrepresented gender at the company’s management levels, must be reported (Danish Financial Statements Act, sections 99a and 99b). From January 2018, the mandate also applies to medium-sized businesses (exempting small- and micro-companies).
The Danish Business Authority published a National Action Plan to advance Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) in Denmark in 2012, covering the 2012 – 2015 period. It contained 42 initiatives focusing on business-driven CSR. In October 2019, the government launched a public hearing process to “investigate how reporting can be made more comparable and create more transparency for the benefit of society and the companies themselves. The purpose is to increase transparency about whether companies are living up to their corporate social responsibility, that sustainable companies have better access to investment and that companies experience a positive value from their CSR reporting.” The government received recommendations in October 2020 and is working on new initiatives. The government hosts www.csrkompasset.dk/ (English language version www.csrcompass.com/ ), a free online tool that can help companies implement responsible supply chain management. The tool is targeted at small and medium-sized production, trade, and service companies. The structure of the CSR Compass and its advice and guidelines are in line with national and international trends and best practice standards, including the UN Global Compact, OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH), and the Danish Council on Corporate Social Responsibility’s guidelines for responsible supply chain management.
Denmark is a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities and;
- North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory
Department of Labor
Denmark is perceived as the least corrupt country in the world according to the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, which has local representation in Denmark. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for combating corruption, which is covered under the Danish Penal Code. Penalties for violations range from fines to imprisonment of up to four years for a private individual’s involvement and up to six years for a public employee’s involvement. Since 1998, Danish businesses cannot claim a tax deduction for the cost of bribes paid to officials abroad.
Denmark is a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery, the UN Anticorruption Convention, and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. In the Working Group’s 2015 Phase 3 follow-up report on Denmark, the Working Group concluded “that Denmark has partially implemented most of its Phase 3 recommendations. However, concerns remain over Denmark’s enforcement of the foreign bribery offence.”
Resources to Report Corruption
Resources to which corruption may be reported:
Contact at Embassy Copenhagen responsible for combating corruption:
10. Political and Security Environment
Denmark is a politically stable country. Incidents involving politically motivated damage to projects or installations are very rare. The EIU rates Denmark “AAA” for political risk.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The Danish labor force is generally well-educated and efficient. English language skills are good, and English is considered a natural second language among a very high proportion of Danes. The labor market is stable and flexible. U.S. companies operating in Denmark have indicated that Danish rules on hiring and firing employees generally enable employers to adjust the workforce quickly to changing market conditions.
The Danish labor force amounted to approximately 2.86 million people at the end of 2020. Of these, 891,000 (Q4, 2019) are employed in the public sector. Denmark’s OECD-harmonized unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in February 2021, lower than the EU-27’s rate of 7.5 percent and OECD average of 6.66 percent.
The public sector in Denmark is large and accounts for about 25 percent of the labor force. The labor force participation rate for women is among the highest in the world. In 2019, 75.6 percent of working-age women participated in the labor force, and the employment rate was 72.9 percent. The working-age male labor force participation rate and employment rate were 79.2 percent and 76.7 percent, respectively.
The Danish labor force is highly organized, with approximately 75 percent belonging to a union. Labor disputes and strikes occur only sporadically. In general, private sector labor/ management relations are excellent, based on dialogue and consensus rather than confrontation. Working conditions are established through a complex system of legislation and organizational agreements, where most aspects of wage and working conditions are determined through collective bargaining rather than legislation.
The contractual work week for most wage earners is 37.5 hours. By law, employees are entitled to five weeks of paid annual leave. In practice, most of the labor force has the right to six weeks of paid annual leave, gained through other labor market agreements.
Denmark has well-functioning unemployment insurance and sick-pay schemes, self-financed or financed by the state. Maternity leave in Denmark is 52 weeks, 18 of which are reserved for the mother (four weeks prior to birth, 14 after) and two for the father, while the remainder may be divided between the parents as they see fit. Employers are obliged to pay salary for at least 14 weeks, while the government supports the rest of the leave. Forthcoming EU legislation will earmark eight of the 52 weeks’ leave to fathers. The legislation is expected to be enacted in member states before 2022.
Danish wages are high by international standards and have prompted the use of capital-intensive technologies in many sectors. Some investors report that the high average wage level is detrimental to Danish competitiveness. Although high wages and generous benefits, including time off, reduce competitiveness, high productivity and low direct costs to employers can result in per employee costs that are lower than in other industrialized countries. Nominal wages increased by 2.3 percent from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020, while inflation was 0.4 percent, enhancing real wage increases. Nominal wages were forecast to increase significantly annually towards 2022, but the current situation makes forecasts highly uncertain.
Generally, personal income tax rates in Denmark are among the highest in the world. However, foreign employees making more than an amount specified annually by the Danish Immigration Service and certain researchers may choose to be subject to a 27 percent income tax rate, plus a labor market contribution amounting to 32.84 percent income tax in the first seven years of working in Denmark. Certain conditions must be fulfilled for key employees to be eligible for the 27 percent tax rate: for example, since January 1, 2020, wages must total at least DKK 69,600 (USD 10,650) per month before the deduction of labor market contributions and after Danish labor market supplementary pension contributions. There are also limits based on an individual’s previous work history in the Danish labor market. Compared with the general Danish progressive income tax system, this is an attractive incentive. Further information can be obtained from Danish embassies or from the Danish Immigration Service ( ).
Danish work permits are not required for citizens of EU countries. U.S. companies have reported that in general, work permits for foreign managerial staff may be readily obtained. However, permits for non-managerial workers from countries outside the EU and the Nordic countries are granted only if substantial professional or labor-related conditions warrant. Special rules detailed by the Danish Immigration Service in its “Positive List Scheme” apply to certain professional fields experiencing a shortage of qualified manpower. The list is updated twice annually. Foreigners who have been hired in the designated fields will be immediately eligible for residence and work permits. The minimum educational level required for a position on the Positive List is a Professional Bachelor’s degree, e.g., pedagogue. In some cases, a Danish authorization must be obtained. This is explicitly stated on the Positive List. (E.g., non-Danish trained doctors must be authorized by the Danish Patient Safety Authority.) Professions covered by the Positive List Scheme included engineers, scientists, doctors, nurses, IT specialists, marine biologists, lawyers, accountants and a wide range of other master’s or bachelor’s degree positions. As of 2021, the Pay Limit Scheme extends to positions with an annual pay of no less than DKK 445,000 (USD 68,100), regardless of the field or specific nature of the job. Persons who have been offered a highly paid job have particularly easy access to the Danish labor market through the Pay Limit Scheme. The length of work and residence permits granted under the Pay Limit Scheme depends on the length of the employment contract in Denmark. For permanent employment contracts, work permits are granted for an initial period of four years. After this period, the permit can be extended if the same job is held. There are several other schemes meant to make it easier for certified companies to bring employees with special skills or qualifications to Denmark. These schemes vary in duration and requirements.
Danish immigration law also allows issuance of residency permits of up to 18 months duration based on an individual evaluation, using a point system based on education, language skills and adaptability.
Denmark has ratified all eight ILO Core Conventions and been an ILO member since 1919.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2019||$350,000||2019||$350,000||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2019||$16,508||2019||$8,992||BEA data available at apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||2019||$37,350||2019||$23,870||BEA data available at www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data|
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||2019||$105,748||2019||30.4%||UNCTAD data available atunctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report|
|* Source for Host Country Data: Statistics Denmark ( www.dst.dk )|
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||185,100||100%||Total Outward||283,461||100%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
|Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||567,534||100%||All Countries||336,821||100%||All Countries||230,712||100%|
|United States||179,992||32%||United States||139,607||41%||Germany||52,776||23%|
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Denmark
Dag Hammarskjölds Alle 24,
2100 Copenhagen, Denmark