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Foreign investors spent $65 billion to acquire or establish United States operations last year, up sharply from the $40.3 billion spent in 1987, the US government reported Tuesday. The Commerce Department attributed the 61.3 percent increase in spending last year over the 1987 level to a surge in large transactions, with the number of investments worth $1 billion doubling from six to 12 in 1988. The 12 investments accounted for 80 percent of the increase in spending last year.

The $65 billion included $60 billion spent to acquire US businesses and $5 billion to establish new operations. Britain was the biggest spender, at $21.5 billion, followed by Japan, at $14.2 billion, and Canada at $10.4 billion.

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