Dubai: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) said on Wednesday it expects to keep the momentum for the rest of the year after witnessing strong growth in the first half.
In the first six months to June, DIFC said, the number of companies joining the free zone rose to 143, up 16 per cent compared to the same period last year, taking the number to 1,539, the centre said in an emailed statement.
“Dubai and the DIFC as the gateway is reflected in our latest results and initiatives, which represent a major milestone in delivering on the centre’s forward-looking 2024 strategy.” Eisa Kazim, DIFC Governor said in a statement. The plan is to triple the size of DIFC by 2024.
The DIFC is now made up of a record 425 financial services firms, up 11 per cent on year, 914 non-financial services firms, a jump of 22 per cent on year, and 192 retailers, almos flat compared to last year, constituting to 81,300 square feet of leased space. Geographically, the Middle East contributes to 22 per cent of the global firms, with 18 per cent from the European Union, 12 per cent each from the United States and Asia, and 15 per cent from the United Kingdom.
In line with its 2024 strategy, the DIFC employed 21,000 employees, up 14 per cent in the same period last year. The centre plans to target 50,000 employees by 2024. “The rest of 2016 and the next year will remain focused on DIFC’s growth strategy and leverage the momentum of the previous first half,” the DIFC said in a statement. The centre plans to build up its client base, attract fintech companies, and help foster innovation. The centre is working towards creation of “proof of concept” for registering wills on the Blockchain. This project will enable DIFC Courts in providing their services under the tenets of transparency and efficiency.
DIFC aims to facilitate the financial services sector to contribute an estimated 18 per cent to the emirate’s GDP (gross domestic product) by 2024, for which the centre undertook several initiatives. The DIFC focussed on facilitating business transactions, trade and investments across the South-South corridor. The DIFC also undertook a number of highly successful roadshows to international markets, such as China, India, Singapore as well as London and Luxembourg. To achieve this goal, the DIFC has over 90 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in place with jurisdictions in the region and around the world.
“Further efforts are continually underway to expand on this already comprehensive framework of agreements, increasing the ease of doing business,” the DIFC stated.
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One of the big highlights from companies which were registered in the DIFC was HSBC, which announced moving its Middle East headquarters and $40 billion in assets to the centre. The first six months also saw regional banks join the DIFC, including Ahli United Bank Limited, and Bank of Palestine, which set up its first overseas operation. In other key sectors, the centre welcomed its first Indian reinsurance firm, HDFC International Life and Re Company, to its portfolio, along with leading Kuwaiti asset management firm, KAMCO Investment Company, which established its first international office in the DIFC.