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Sun 9 Sep 2012 01:06 PM

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DIFC sees 41% rise in new commercial licences

Occupancy levels in DIFC-owned space in the Gate rose to 98 percent in first half of 2012

DIFC sees 41% rise in new commercial licences

Occupancy levels in offices owned by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the emirate’s financial free zone, topped 98 percent in the first half of 2012 as the number of commercial licences issued during the period surged year-on-year by 41 percent, it was announced on Sunday.

According to figures from the DIFC Authority, the free zone’s operating body, occupancy of DIFC-owned commercial offices in the Gate District increased to 98 percent between January and June 2012, up from 95 percent in the same period in 2011. Occupancy levels in commercial offices owned by third-party developer were slightly lower at 86 percent, during the first half.

The low vacancy rates were as a result of continued growth at the city’s main financial hub, with the net total number of active registered companies operating in the centre rising to 899, an increase of 6 percent year-on-year.

A total of 90 new commercial licences were issued in the first half of 2012, compared to 64 licences in H1 2011, a year-on-year surge of 41 percent.

"There are promising opportunities for significant expansion of DIFC both in terms of the number of companies operating here and the range of activities in which they are engaged,” said HE Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, chairman of the board of directors of DIFC Authority.

Europe continued to dominate the centre’s residents, with approximately 36 percent of regulated member companies coming from Europe, despite the ongoing eurozone crisis in the region.

The Middle East accounted for 26 percent of companies, compared to 16 percent from North America, 11 percent from Asia and 11 percent from the rest of the world.

The retail sector also continued to perform well, with occupancy in DIFC-owned retail space remained consistent at 96 percent.

In July, the DIFC Authority saw a shakeup in personal, with Jeff Singer, the former chief executive of NASDAQ Dubai, appointed CEO.

He replaced Abdulla Al Awar who has been appointed as an advisor to the board of directors, a statement said.

The appointments come as the organisation segregates into two independent entities - DIFCA and DIFC Properties which will manage its real estate portfolio.

The reorganisation was effective from July and is part of DIFC's growth strategy, the statement added.

"DIFCA's medium-term goal is to build on the Centre's successful performance to date and double its scale as a global financial hub," the statement said.

Singer has been appointed CEO of DIFC Authority and Nabil Ramadhan has been named acting CEO of DIFC Properties.

DIFC contributed around US$1.3bn to the UAE economy in 2011, equivalent to 1.4 percent of the nation's non-hydrocarbon GDP. At present, the DIFC is home to 17 of the world’s top 25 banks, eight of the world’s ten largest insurers, eight out of 15 top law firms and ten of the top 20 money managers.