UAE in 'landmark' move to allow foreigners to own 100% of local firms

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The UAE government has unveiled sweeping reforms to allow foreign investors 100% ownership of local businesses as well as granting 10-year visas to certain expatriates – measures it expects will significantly boost FDI flows into the country.

According to the plans, which were announced on Sunday, foreign investors will be able to fully own a company in the UAE. Current law states that foreigners can only own up to a 49% stake in companies not located in specially designated free zones. The present regulations also require foreign businesses to sign partnerships with Emirati stakeholders.

Following Sunday’s session Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (pictured), prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, said the dual series of changes would further boost the country’s competitiveness. According to the report via local news agency, WAM, Sheikh Mohammed explained, “The UAE will remain a global incubator for exceptional talents and a permanent destination for international investors. Our open environment, tolerant values, infrastructure and flexible legislation are the best plan to attract global investment and exceptional talents in the UAE.”

The Abu Dhabi-based Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority confirmed that the UAE recorded a record $10.3bn of FDI in 2017, a rise of 6.7% on 2016.

‘Landmark decisions’
The news was widely welcomed by the financial services sector and across trade and industry in the region. Jaap Meijer, managing director and head of equity research at Arqaam Capital, said: “We applaud these landmark decisions.”

Essa Kazim, governor of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), said: “This new law will contribute to increasing transparency, quality of service, and the adoption of international best practices, while boosting the UAE’s competitiveness on the global stage and cementing its role in shaping the future of investment in the region.”

The new laws are due to come into effect at the end of this calendar year.

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Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.