On 19 May 2021 the UAE Minister of Economy, His Excellency Abdulla Al Marri, announced that amendments to the Companies Law in respect of foreign ownership will be implemented from 1 June.

The amendments to the law allow foreign, non-UAE national, investors to wholly own companies ‘onshore’ in the UAE, unless a restriction exists and the company carries on what is called a ‘strategic impact’ activity.

There have been a number of interesting developments since the 19 May announcement:

Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development has announced a list of licence activities which may be conducted by a company which is wholly owned by foreign investors in Abu Dhabi. There are over 1,100 licence activities included on the list from a range of sectors of the economy. Amongst other things, it was interesting to read that:

  • the list contains an extensive range of manufacturing activities,
  • building and other contracting activities are included in the list,
  • repair, maintenance and installation activities feature across a range of fields,
  • e-commerce is included,
  • a range of rental and leasing activities are included,
  • the list includes a number of marketing and events related activities,
  • the licence activity of ‘onshore and offshore oil and gas fields and facilities services’ is included,
  • hospitals are included in the list, and
  • trading activities are not included in the list.


The Dubai Department of Economic Development has issued an announcement stating that, amongst other things:

  • there will be more than 1,000 commercial and industrial licence activities which it will be possible for a company which is wholly owned by foreign investors to carry on,
  • ‘professional activities’ will be restricted from foreign ownership,
  • no specific capital requirements will be imposed on companies which are wholly owned by foreign investors, and
  • foreign companies operating through a branch office will not be required to appoint a UAE national agent.

Based on announcements from the Dubai Department of Economic Development, the list of ‘strategic impact’ activities in which foreign investment will not be permitted includes:

  • security, defence and military activities,
  • fisheries and associated services,
  • certain financial institutions,
  • printing banknotes,
  • communications,
  • Hajj and Umrah services, and
  • centres for memorising the Holy Quran.

It's an interesting time to be advising on FDI and corporate structuring in the UAE...