Dubai 'open to allowing 100% foreign ownership' of retail brands

Dubai Chamber of Commerce CEO Hamad Buamim confirms that Apple and Tesla already have exemption from rules
Apple Store Dubai Mall ... in 2015 it was reported that Apple was granted an exemption from foreign ownership laws in the UAE, allowing the US tech giant to retain 100 percent control of operations in the emirates. Photo: Fritz John Asuro/ITP Images
By Jeremy Lawrence
Tue 15 May 2018 08:41 AM

Dubai is open to allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of “strategically important” retail brands, according to Hamad Buamim, president and CEO Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Speaking at the launch of the CBRE’s ‘How Global is the Business of Retail?’ report, Buamim said: “Having a local partner brings great benefits but some brands don’t feel they need a sponsor and in that case we are open to a discussion. We’ve seen it with Apple and Tesla and there is a law to allow businesses that are strategically important. It is not a deal breaker.”

Under local regulations, all businesses operating in the UAE must be 51 percent owned by Emiratis or a company wholly owned by them, unless they are based in free-zones.

But in 2015 it was reported that Apple was granted an exemption from foreign ownership laws in the UAE, allowing the US tech giant to retain 100 percent control of operations in the emirates.

Apple never confirmed this arrangement and Tesla has similarly not revealed the deal it struck with authorities when it launched its operations in Dubai with the opening of a showroom in July 2017.

Opening the economy

Sultan bin Saeed al Mansoori, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, last year said that a new law exempting foreign firms from giving local partners 51 percent of companies set up in the UAE would come into force in 2018.

The UAE Commercial Companies Law requires that each company established in the UAE have one or more UAE national partner who hold at least 51 percent of the company’s capital.

But new rules aimed at liberalising the UAE’s investment environment have been debated by the Federal National Council and Mansoori has since confirmed that the rules will come into effect by Q4 this year.

Currently, companies that undertake certain activities are exempt from the 51 percent requirement, including oil companies with concession agreements, companies involved in the oil and gas industry, companies that produce electricity and gas, companies involved in treatment of water and transmission and distribution.

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