UAE decides to approve full foreign ownership of firms

ABU DHABI, July 3 ― The United Arab Emirates said yesterday it had decided to lift a decades-old cap on foreign ownership and allow full foreign control of business ventures.

“In a Cabinet meeting I chaired in Abu Dhabi, we approved 100 per cent foreign ownership in 122 economic activities,” UAE vice president and prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum said on Twitter.

The decision abolishes a decades-old law that limits foreign ownership to just 49 per cent.

The move covers “fields including agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, e-commerce, transportation, arts, construction and entertainment,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

The seven Sheikhdoms that comprise the UAE will have the discretion to specify their own ceilings for foreign ownership of key business sectors, a government statement said.

To dodge the 49-per cent limit, some emirates led by Dubai have long established free trade zones where foreigners can own up to 100 per cent of their business.

Sheikh Mohammed said yesterday's decision opens the UAE economy to all nationalities so as “to make it one of the best destinations for global investments.”

The Cabinet decision essentially opens up 13 major economic sectors in the Arab world's second largest and most diversified economy.

The capital Abu Dhabi sits on the majority of the UAE's vast oil reserves and pumps close to three million barrels per day.

The UAE is already the Arab world's top recipient of foreign direct investment, attracting more than US$11 billion last year.

But economic growth was lacklustre last year, registering 1.3 per cent.

To counter the slowdown, authorities have introduced a range of measures, including permanent residency schemes.

Expatriates, mostly Asians, form some 90 per cent of UAE's population of 10 million. ― AFP

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