Gabon has benefited from considerable private investment centered on the development of petroleum resources. French investments predominated, accounting for over 73% of foreign investment, with the United Kingdom (21%) following. Since independence, however, Gabon has sought additional sources of investment and US companies have invested in the lumber industry, oil exploration, and mining. French influence by sector is estimated at 63% in construction, 50% in petroleum, 30% in timber, 20% in chemicals, and 29% in transportation. The biggest French company in Gabon is Shell Gabon.
Gabon's investment code of 1989 gives preferential treatment with regard to taxation, duties, importation of certain equipment and raw materials, and royalties to all enterprises considered important for the development of Gabon's economy. The government reserves the right to give preferential treatment to Gabonese-owned industry. Free transfer of capital is guaranteed and there are no restrictions on area of activity. All new industrial, mining, farming, or forestry operations are exempt from income tax for the first two years.
In January 1996, the government passed a new law on privatization that resulted in the sale of the electricity and water monopoly (SEEG) in 1997 to a French firm. Other companies to be privatized include Transgabonese Railway (OCTRA) and the International Telecommunications Office (OPT).