On July 2, 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Cabinet, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the sectors and economic activities eligible for up to 100 percent foreign ownership pursuant to Federal Decree-Law No. 19 of 2018, the Foreign Direct Investment Law, which was issued on October 30, 2018. The Cabinet has approved up to 100 percent foreign ownership in 122 economic activities across 13 sectors.
With this decision, the Cabinet aims to open and expand economic sectors, attract new investors and enhance the global competitiveness of the UAE’s national economy and confirms the UAE government’s continued commitment to attracting more foreign investment.
The Cabinet's decision provides investors with an opportunity to acquire various shares in a number of economic activities in sectors such as space and green technology, including the production of solar panels and power transformers and hybrid power plants. Areas for foreign ownership also include transport and storage, allowing investors to own projects in the fields of e-commerce transport, supply chain, logistics, and cold storage for pharmaceutical products.
The Cabinet's decision covers other areas of ownership by foreign investors, including manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and food services, and information and communications, as well as professional, scientific and technical activities, which allows for ownership in laboratories for research and development in biotechnology. The list also includes administrative services, support services, educational activities, health care, art and entertainment and construction.
Pursuant to the Cabinet's decision, the seven emirates’ local governments will be able to determine the ownership percentage of foreign investors in each activity/sector in their respective jurisdictions. In some emirates, certain activities could still require an Emirati shareholder, even when the foreign ownership threshold increases.
Once the decision is published in the Federal Gazette, and after determining their percentages, the local governments will issue internal circulars to the relevant licensing departments for implementation.