The UAE’s decision to further liberalise its foreign investment regime will continue to attract more foreign direct investment in to the Middle East, according to a new UN report.
“The UAE is further liberalising its foreign investment regime and expanding foreign investors’ access to the domestic economy. This move, combined with continued acquisitions in the oil and gas sector and the implementation of major announced projects in innovative industries is likely to ensure that the country will continue driving FDI to the region,” said World Investment Report 2021 released recently by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
The UAE continued to liberalise its FDI regime with the promulgation of the 2020 FDI Decree, which further facilitated foreign investment by extending some of the free zone incentives to the broader economy. The UAE allowed 100 foreign ownership in mainland businesses from June 1, 2021, eliminating the need for a UAE national to hold the majority share.
The UAE also received more foreign direct investment in the year of the Covid-19 pandemic when the Emirates was ranked among the world’s top 20 FDI recipient countries.
According to UNCTAD total FDI inflows into the UAE reached $20 billion in 2020 as compared to $18 billion in 2019, an increase of over 11 per cent. While FDI outflows from the UAE slowed down from $21 billion in 2019 to $19 billion last year.
Natural resources transactions drove investments in the country, primarily Adnoc’s $10 billion sale of a 49 per cent stake in its natural-gas pipelines to a group of six investors including Global Infrastructure Partners, Brookfield Asset Management and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.
The UAE also received investments in other industries. For example, some 53 per cent of FDI to the emirate of Dubai in the first half of 2020 was in medium- and high-tech sectors. A key deal was realised in the pharmaceuticals industry, with CCL Pharmaceuticals (Pakistan) acquiring a majority stake in StratHealth Pharma for an undisclosed sum.
The UAE was recently ranked 15th globally and first in the region in Kearney’s 2021 FDI Confidence Index, emerging more favourite destination for foreign investment than Singapore, Norway, Belgium, Austria, South Korea, Denmark, Brazil and Finland, Ireland and Portugal.
According to UNCTAD FDI flows to Middle East increased by nine per cent to $37 billion in 2020.
A significant rise in M&As – 60 per cent to $21 billion – drove this growth, particularly some key acquisitions in natural resource-related projects in some of the region’s main economies. By contrast, the pandemic combined with low energy prices and commodity prices significantly curtailed greenfield investment projects. The impact was particularly severe in the region’s relatively smaller economies, where the needs for investment are the greatest, the UN report said.
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