UAE approves full foreign ownership of firms

The United Arab Emirates said Tuesday 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 percent 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 percent.

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

The seven Emirates 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-percent limit, some emirates led by Dubai have long established free trade zones where foreigners can own up to 100 percent of their business.

Sheikh Mohammed said Tuesday’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 $11 billion last year.

But economic growth was lacklustre last year, registering 1.3 percent.

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

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