Stock Abu Dhabi skyline
Sets the ball rolling... Abu Dhabi has freed up more than 1,000 business activities that it says will soon allow full ownership by a non-UAE investor. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has drawn up a list of 1,105 commercial and industrial activities that will allow 100 per cent ownership by non-UAE nationals. Owners of existing companies do have the right to adjust their status, provided they "comply with the regulations on activities or other applicable restrictions".

It is not known whether other business activities would be added to this list at a later stage. Other emirates and their Economic Departments will soon come up with their own listings of business activities with 100 per cent foreign ownership provision.

Investors can look up whether their operations fall under the exempt category on the website ''.

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According to sources in the business community, other emirates will likely follow more or less the same patterns in listing commercial activities for full foreign ownership. "There could be exemptions too - Dubai, for instance, is a hub for digital and social media businesses, and authorities would consider such factors too."

"The announcement of the list of economic activities available for foreign ownership comes to affirm the Abu Dhabi government’s keenness to attract more foreign direct investments, promote an open and flexible business environment," the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development said on its site, "And as part of its continuous efforts to issue more decisions and initiatives that stimulate the private sector and enhance the position of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on the global investment map."

Abu Dhabi sets ball rolling on 100% ownership
The Department of Economic Development defined 1,105 registered commercial and industrial activities, in which non-citizens, whether natural or legal persons, have the right to own business licenses and establish companies with full 100% - or any other percentage - of ownership.

It was on Wednesday that the UAE confirmed it will allow full foreign ownership in businesses identified as being in non-strategic areas. The Departments of Economic Development in each of the emirates would draw up the list of such business activities. The revised Commercial Companies Law goes into effect June 1.

Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of ADDED, said, "The decision is one of many decisions and initiatives to provide incentives for the private sector in Abu Dhabi and to enhance the status of Abu Dhabi on the global investment map."

Not having 100% foreign ownership
According to sources, categories such as banking and finance, including the fast emerging fintech space as well as remittances, will remain activities that require a UAE national as majority partner.

Other strategic categories would be services in utilities and telecom, as well as those businesses operating under the Commercial Agency Law.