Apple opens secret office in Dubai to serve as Middle East HQ

Apple is one of the last smartphone manufacturers to establish a presence in Dubai in turning to the MEA region as a source of growth.

Apple last week unveiled the iPhone 6, left, and its bigger-screen twin the iPhone 6 Plus, sparking a frenzy among excited fans in the UAE. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo
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Apple has quietly opened an office in Dubai to serve as its regional headquarters for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

The US-based electronics manufacturer has been on a recruitment drive over the past few months to help flesh out its base in the emirate, where it has also opened a distribution facility in Jebel Ali Free Zone.

The office in Emaar Square has been open since January.

Dubai will serve as the hub of Apple’s activities in MEA. It has hired Handle Recruitment in London to headhunt local talent, but the agency did not want to comment.

Apple declined to comment.

Apple is one of the last smartphone manufacturers to establish a presence in Dubai – after Samsung, Google and HTC – in turning to the MEA region as a source of growth.

An office in Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 remained largely unused over the years with the region’s sales and marketing handled in London.

Earlier this year Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, visited the UAE, with many observers claiming it was to scout for a location. An Apple store in Dubai has been on the cards for a while with speculation that the company would also open a store in Abu Dhabi. Apple has also listed 23 retail jobs on its website for a Dubai store.

Having a presence in the Middle East was a positive sign, said retailers.

“With direct availability of products, they will arrive quicker and we should see more offers locally,” said Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky’s Electronics.

Apple’s distribution centre in Jebel Ali Free Zone would ensure greater availability of the company’s gadgets, said Mr Panjabi.

A retail store in Dubai will cater not just to the UAE market, but the wider GCC, particularly customers from Saudi Arabia.

Last week Apple unveiled its new line up of products including a larger iPhone and a smartwatch. The time to market for such new gadgets has been reduced significantly over the past couple of years, with only a few weeks’ waiting time before they arrive in the Middle East.

In unit volume terms, IHS Technology expects Apple to be the second-ranked mobile handset company this year, after Samsung. “That’s not just smartphones, that’s all mobiles, from a $15 handset to the premium,” said Ian Fogg, the senior director at IHS Technology.

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