United Arab Emirates foreign direct investment overview

On 17 March 2020, the UAE Cabinet issued the complete Positive List for FDI in the UAE, enumerating the 122 activities and sectors where up to 100% foreign ownership would be permitted, as well as detailing the criteria for the establishment and licensure of companies under the UAE FDI Law. The Positive List became legally effective upon its publishing in the Official Gazette on 31 March 2020.

Background

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long maintained certain restrictions on the level of foreign ownership of UAE based companies (a maximum of 49% shareholding for the foreign investor, and a minimum of 51% for the UAE national shareholder), in order to regulate foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country and keep certain sectors under national control. With the increasing interest from abroad in investment in the wider Gulf region, the UAE has been a focal point for inward FDI flows due to its business-friendly environment and access to talent. The federal government of the UAE indicated its desire to gradually relax some of the FDI restrictions in numerous public and private discussions. In 2017, the Federal Commercial Companies Law of 2015 was amended by decree, exempting certain companies and sectors (which were not identified) from the 51% local shareholder requirement applicable to UAE mainland onshore companies.

Read more: United Arab Emirates foreign direct investment overview


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