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With the Brexit transition period coming to an end on December 31st and with no EU-UK trade deal in sight (at the time of writing this article), there’s never been a better time for Gibraltar businesses to look for partners beyond the shores of the EU.

In this trilogy of articles, we will explore markets which are a bit further afield, but nevertheless are very receptive of international business, where Gibraltar companies may be interested to consider expanding to. There is no better way to enter a new market than through introductions and we would be delighted to introduce you to our business partners in these markets. 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a magnet for business thanks to its ultra-low tax environment, low bureaucracy and being one of the safest places in the world. There is no corporate or personal tax in the UAE and no limits on the repatriation of capital or profits. Moreover, it is consistently ranked as one of the world’s least complex jurisdictions for doing business, with minimal admin, compliance and forms. In general, there are two options when setting up an operational entity in the UAE:

Free Trade Zone: There is no UAE-national shareholder or split ownership requirement for companies setting up in a free zone – a foreign entity or individual can have 100% business ownership. Free zone companies are limited in what they can do on the UAE mainland (i.e. outside the free zones) but can operate freely everywhere else.

Onshore Jurisdiction: Onshore jurisdictions refer to any part of the UAE not within a free zone. They are subject to federal laws and regulations, with regulating and authority bodies under the Ministry of Economy in each emirate.

The financial and business heart of the UAE is the city-state of Dubai. Dubai has firmly established itself as the most dominant business hub in the Middle East and one the fastest growing economies in the world, ideally positioned at the cross-roads of East and West. Dubai is a city which wants to be the biggest and the best. Dubai is already home to a number of architectural wonders, such as the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) along with the Dubai Frame, the Dubai Palm Island and the iconic Atlantis Hotel.   

On our recent business trip to Dubai we were amazed to see how westernised Dubai is and how business-friendly it is. Here are some of the key insights and tips about doing business in Dubai:

1 Dubai is highly international and the ratio of expats to local Emiratis is about 9:1 which means the people you will be dealing with, primarily at executive, managerial levels are most likely to be expats, with the ultimate owners being Emiratis.

2 Given the highly multicultural population, English is very widely spoken at all levels of service providers from shops and restaurant staff to taxi drivers and civil servants. 

3 The city of Dubai is massive, both in terms of population – over 2.8 million – and in area size with the distance from one end of the city to another being over 35km. Besides the main downtown business centre, there are several other business districts scattered across the city. You may find it useful to divide your stay in Dubai over two or three hotels depending on the location of your meetings, or you will find yourself spending a lot of time on taxi journeys from one part of the city to another. For meetings in the Deira district we recommend staying at the super modern 5* Al Bandar Rotona Hotel which is situated on the waterfront of the Dubai Creek with wonderful views of the Burj Khalifa and few minutes’ walk from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and numerous other corporate buildings. If you wish to be closer to the Downtown district as well as to Dubai’s Internet City and Dubai Marina business district then staying at the iconic Atlantis Hotel on the famous Palm Jumeria Island would be ideal. This world famous 5*hotel resort located at the pinnacle of the Palm Island offers unmatched luxury and spectacular facilities including one of the world’s biggest aquariums – 11 million cubic meters of water teeming with thousands of fish and marine life (you can even go diving inside it!). The hotel also features its very own AquaVenture aquapark – the biggest in the Middle East- making it the ultimate place to stay in Dubai for business and leisure.         

4. If you plan on having meetings in neighbouring Emirates such as Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, or even for hopping for meetings from one end of the city to another, Dubai offers helicopter services with HeliDubai which would breeze you in minutes to your destination, whilst admiring the incredible skyline of the city. 

5 It is always important to get some understanding of the local history and culture and no better place do so than at the Dubai Frame. This iconic building has an exhibition that showcases the development of Dubai from a small fishing village to current days along with the future vision for Dubai. Incredible views of Downtown Dubai are guaranteed!     

6Dubai is highly COVID-conscious and enforcement of masks and social distancing is very strict, which gives a greater sense of safety.

So, if you are looking to expand to the Gulf region, East Africa and Asia, Dubai is no doubt the place to be. 

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Eran Shay Managing Director, Benefit Business Solutions Ltd. With over 20 years’ experience in the world of Finance, Eran specialises in helping companies grow in innovative ways. Eran has ample experience in the fields of Corporate Finance, Regulatory Advisory, Business & Strategic Planning, Valuations and Transaction Support and his focus on technology means he keeps in touch with innovative companies in a variety of sectors. Ayelet Mamo Shay Co-Founder & Business Development Director, Benefit Business Solutions Ltd. Ayelet specialises in online and offline marketing, sales, and PR. She is the author of the successful novel “Relocation Darling, Relocation!” and provides relocation consulting and personal coaching. A busy entrepreneur, Ayelet also serves as Chairwoman of the Gibraltar-Israel Chamber of Commerce.