Dubai International Financial Centre experienced continued growth in the first half this year, with 143 new firms joining the centre to bring it across the threshold of 1,500 members.
The increase in new members represented a 16 per cent gain over the same period last year, and brings the total to 1,539. The emirate’s financial hub also crossed another milestone, with more than 21,000 employees now working at the centre, at 21,076 – a 14 per cent increase on last year.
The growth in the first half puts DIFC well on the way to reaching its aim of tripling in size by 2024. It said it has reached 42 per cent of its target just two years after the goal was announced.
DIFC also received a huge boost to its “balance sheet” – the value of assets held by member firms – with the relocation of HSBC Middle East to the centre this year. This added a further US$40 billion to the balance sheet, which stood at $65bn this time last year. The goal for 2024 is $400bn.
Two other banks, Ahli United of Bahrain and Bank of Palestine also signed up at DIFC in the first half, as well as a number of regional reinsurance firms and asset managers.
Essa Kazim, the governor of DIFC, said: “Dubai and DIFC serve as the gateway to the world’s fastest-growing markets across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. This is reflected in our latest results and initiatives, which represent a major milestone in delivering on the centre’s forward-looking 2024 strategy. We continue to invest in building our world-class ecosystem, and are committed to creating an environment that enables our clients to take advantage of new opportunities that arise in the region.”
He said the building occupancy remained “extremely high”, representing ongoing demand for space in the centre.
The active companies in DIFC include 425 financial services firms, 11 per cent up on this time last year; 914 non-financial companies, a 22 per cent increase; and 192 retailers, 2 per cent up, which took up a further 81,300 square feet of leased space.
Arif Amiri, the chief executive of the DIFC Authority, said: “Our success in 2016 builds on the triumph of a record-breaking 2015. We are leveraging our position in the world’s fastest-growing region and at the heart of a region worth $7.8 trillion. We continue to grow at a rapid rate and our achievements outperform many competitors in a time of some global uncertainty.”
Mr Amiri said enabling work had already begun on the Dh475 million Gate Avenue project, and it was on target for completion by the end of next year.
Other new projects in DIFC include the Gate Village Building 11 development and the joint venture between Investment Corporation of Dubai and Brookfield Property Partners for a $1bn skyscraper, which broke ground in January.
DIFC continues to seek opportunities in Asia and Africa. “In line with our goal of facilitating trade and investment flows across the south-south corridor, the DIFC leadership team undertook a number of highly successful visits to international markets, such as China, India and Singapore,” Mr Amiri said. DIFC delegations also visited London and Luxembourg, he added.
DIFC now has more than 90 memorandums of understanding in place with jurisdictions in the region and around the world.
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