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Mon 4 Feb 2008 12:30 PM

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Abu Dhabi to relax foreign ownership laws

Current 49% will be raised 'considerably' in sectors most in need of investments - official.

Abu Dhabi plans relax ownership laws to allow foreign investors to take larger stakes in industrial projects as the government looks to spur the emirate's economic boom.

Jaber Al Khaili, CEO of the Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic Zones (Zones-Corp), said on Sunday new legislation will be issued in the next few days that will increase foreign ownership in certain sectors "considerably", quoted UAE daily Emirates Business 24/7.

“The current 49% will be considerably increased in sectors that are most in need of foreign investments. Our aim behind this is to give a strong push to the industry in Abu Dhabi,” he told the newspaper at the Abu Dhabi Economic Forum, without giving details of sectors would be affected

However, Al Khaili ruled out 100% foreign ownership, stating it was "impossible" at the moment.

"...there are good percentages that will considerably attract foreign investments. We will attempt to provide all factors of success for foreign investment," he said.

"There are important industrial sectors that need to significantly raise the percentage of possession.”

The legislation is part of the government's efforts to encourage investment in the emirate as it looks to spend $200 billion transforming the capital into an ultra-modern city over the next 12 years, under its Abu Dhabi Plan 2030 development strategy.

The government on Sunday outlined a new five-year strategy, part of the Abu Dhabi Plan, that will see $28 billion invested in education, transportation and oil and gas.

“In the next few years, billions of dollars are projected to be pumped in to the economy and currently over $10 billion is being injected into infrastructure projects, including the expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport, the UAE University and Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone,” Nasser bin Ahmad Al Suwaidi, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy, told the forum.

Al Suwaidi said that around $18 billion would also be invested in enhancing refining capacity, besides expansion in oil producing and distribution projects.

Speaking at the forum, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Salah Al Shamesi said foreign investment in the emirate was a major force driving economic growth.

Al Shamesi said Abu Dhabi's economy is expected to grow between 8.2 and 13% over the next few years.

He attributed the rise to the emirate's gross domestic product (GDP), which is expected to hit almost 600 billion dirhams ($163.4 billion), he said.

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