Abu Dhabi to allow foreigners to fully own professional companies

The new professional licence is applicable to 604 activities

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, April 9, 2013:    Skyline of Abu Dhabi seen from the break water in Abu Dhabi on April 9, 2013. Christopher Pike / The National
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Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development is introducing a professional licence that will allow foreigners full ownership of businesses related to 604 activities as the emirate seeks to attract more investors and boost its economy.

The professional activities include: accounting, training, consultancy, beauty centres, computer and internet network companies, Added said.

The licence is easy to set up or adjust, which in turn will streamline business practice across the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Rashid Al Blooshi, undersecretary of Added, said.

Abu Dhabi has introduced several initiatives to improve the ease of doing business and its global competitiveness as it prepares for its next 50 years of economic growth.

Earlier this month, the emirate reduced the requirements to set up a business by 71 per cent, a week after it cut business set-up fees by more than 90 per cent to further support the private sector.

The latest professional licence is suitable for new investors owing to its cost and the ease of its issuance, Added said.

A local service agent, who will be responsible for managing licensing requirements, is required for businesses to avail of this licence if there is no Emirati partner. Added will also issue a form of service agent agreement to identify the relationship between all partners.

An investor applying for a professional licence can also open a commercial branch "if the commercial activity is consistent with or complementary to the professional activity", Added said.

Existing businesses can benefit from this decision by adjusting their status from a commercial to a professional operation while maintaining their registered number and date of incorporation.

Added defines professional activities as those practised by a professional investor within his area of experience and which match their academic or professional qualifications.

Abu Dhabi's economy is expected to grow between 6 per cent and 8 per cent over the next two years, driven by government spending, financial services and foreign direct investment, Mohammed Al Shorafa, chairman of Added, told The National.

Last year, Added issued foreign direct investment licences to investors, allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of businesses with capital of Dh2 million ($544,588).

The FDI licence covered 122 economic activities in sectors including agriculture, industry and services.

However, activities such as petroleum exploration and production; ground and air transport services; activities related to investigations, security and military sectors; weapons manufacturing; banking and finance activities; and medical retailing such as private pharmacies, are not covered by the FDI licence.

Last year, Abu Dhabi also identified a list of investment opportunities across sectors including health care, food production and energy that are open to foreign investors.

Mr Al Shorafa said the move will encourage investors, spur business development for foreign companies and attract businesses in technology and advanced industries, which contributes to the emirate's push for economic diversification.

Updated: August 09, 2021, 3:44 PM