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Forget the naysayers, about 66 per cent of businesses in Dubai expect to grow headcount in the coming year, according to a survey commissioned by Citi Group Inc.

The survey was conducted with You Gov earlier in February and March with a sample size of 290 mid-market companies in Dubai, Istanbul, London and Moscow. Across all four cities, approximately 82 per cent of companies polled expressing confidence about their economic outlook over the next two years. 

“Confidence is increasing for the majority of companies we polled. In fact they are increasingly looking beyond their national borders for growth,” said Vincent Valladares, Head of Citi Commercial Bank, Middle East.  “Close to 66 per cent of respondents in Dubai also expected their businesses to grow headcount in the coming year.’’

Expansion in Dubai

“We’re pleased to say that 74 per cent of companies surveyed in Dubai plan to open new international offices and similarly 74 per cent will target new export markets as a means of growing their businesses in the next two years,” said Valladares. “We feel this reflects well on Dubai as a place to do business.”

The report also revealed that when selecting the most suitable markets for expansion, the main priorities for Dubai-based businesses were presence of a skilled workforce, political stability, and ease of doing business. 

Prospects in the Middle East 

Respondents were most optimistic about the economic prospects of the Asia Pacific and the Middle East regions, while they were most pessimistic about Europe.  

Specifically, the top five most favourably viewed markets for business expansion (of any kind) were (in rank order) India, Canada, US, Saudi, Qatar, reflecting the importance of the size of the new market, as well as its proximity and cultural links.

In terms of actual expansion undertaken, in the last three years 4 in 5 of our sample had targeted new export markets while three quarters had opened new offices.  The Middle East was the most popular regional location for both of these.

Europe is the most popular anticipated location for new offices and the Middle East most popular for targeting of new markets.

The survey was carried out online. Respondents were a random sample of senior staff (director and above) in companies with turnover from $50 million to $1 billion.