UAE law allowing 100% foreign ownership now in force
The law establishes ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ lists of sectors open to more
than 49 per cent foreign investment
A law allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies in the UAE is now
in force after being published in the country’s Official Gazette.
The long-awaited law is designed to make the country more attractive for
investors while limiting the impact on local businesses, officials have
Foreign companies seeking to establish an entity onshore in the UAE would
previously have to team up with a UAE national, who was required to own 51
per cent of the shares of the company.
Law firm Clyde & Co confirmed the law’s publication on Sunday afternoon.
Among the key details is a framework allowing the UAE Cabinet to exercise
its powers to permit increased levels of foreign ownership, it said.
Clarification regarding the steps required of companies to apply to own more
than 49 per cent of shares in selected sectors of the economy were also
Sectors restricted from 100 per cent foreign ownership appear on a ‘negative
- Oil exploration and production
- nvestigation, security, military (including manufacturing of military
weapons, explosives, dress, and equipment)
- Banking and financing activities
- Pilgrimage and Umrah services
- Certain recruitment activities
- Water and electricity provision
- Fishing and related services
- Post, telecommunication and other audio visual services
- Road and air transport
- Printing and publishing
- Commercial agency
- Medical retail (including pharmacies)
- Blood banks, quarantines and venom/poison banks
A separate ‘positive list’ covers sectors open to greater foreign
investment. However, the new law allows the cabinet to add or remove sectors
on each list at a later date, Clyde & Co said.
Details of sectors on the positive list are not mentioned in the new law,
but are expected to include the manufacturing and service industries.
When a sector is added to the list, the cabinet can mandate that a company
or its shareholders meet certain requirements before greater foreign
investment is allowed.
Clyde & Co said these:
- Mandate the level of foreign ownership permitted in the relevant sector
(which could be 100 per cent, but could also be less than 100 per cent)
- Place restrictions or requirements in respect of the type of legal entity
which may carry on business in the relevant sector
- Apply minimum capital requirements
- Impose Emiratisation requirements and allow greater levels of foreign
ownership than is currently the case in specific emirates (not across the
Foreign investors that apply for permission to increase their foreign
ownership percentage can be rejected but may appeal the decision under the
Investors can also apply to increase their ownership of businesses in
sectors not included on the negative or positive lists but are expected to
face stiffer requirements to do so.
Government bodies established under the new law, the Foreign Direct
Investment Unit and Foreign Direct Investment Committee, will administer
investment in the country.
November 05, 2018