Abu Dhabi: The UAE government and private sector have invested heavily in the United Kingdom over the past four years. Capital expenditure in UK investments is Dh30.9 billion ($8.4 billion), Gulf News has determined.

According to recent reports and despite the economic downturn, trade between the UAE and the United Kingdom has increased by 63 per cent over the level in 2007. The United Kingdom is now ranked seventh on the list of the UAE's trade partners.

With the UAE being home to the International Renewable Energy Authority (Irena), the two countries are expected to boost cooperation in the renewable energy sector and related technologies.

Initiatives in economy, investment and industry were recently discussed in talks between Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the UAE foreign trade minister, and Lena Wilson, Scottish Development chief executive. The two discussed their plans to boost business partnerships between the two countries.

Growing importance

According to Wilson, the UAE has been climbing steadily in importance as an export market for Scotland, moving up the rankings from 25th in 2002 to 18th in 2007.

Scotland accounts for seven to ten per cent of UK exports to the UAE.

"The meeting we had with Shaikha Lubna was successful, as we discussed ways in which we can further raise the profile of the UAE within Scotland and encourage Scottish businesses in the UAE.

"Shaikha Lubna has a love for Scotland and is aware of our strong heritage in education and current strengths in renewable," Wilson said.

With investments by UAE companies in Scotland reaching Dh17.03 billion, a pro-business relationship is beginning to bear fruit in the natural resource, renewable and hydrocarbon energy, life sciences, financial services, electronics, tourism and education fields.

"The UAE is increasingly becoming a target for Scottish companies and a potential source for investment in Scotland. Scottish Development International provides a range of support to Scottish companies looking to explore new markets and opportunities," Wilson said.

He said that Scottish exports to the UAE had increased from $185 million in 2004 to $275 million in 2007.

UAE investments in the United Kingdom and Scotland include the historic Scottish golf resort that was bought through Nakheel for $55 million.

Mohammad Mahdi Al Tajir, an Emirati businessman ranked the 20th richest man in the world with net worth of $4.1 billion, has owned Highland Spring, the second biggest bottled water company in the United Kingdom, since 1979. Al Tajir is the former UAE ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Highland Spring has since enjoyed a turnover of over $50 million. It currently has about 300 staff members.

Last month the company recorded its best month with sales of nearly 30 million litres of water.

The Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based hotel group and operator of the Burj Al Arab, also signed an agreement last year to develop the first international luxury business hotel in Scotland due to be completed by 2011.