Business set up in Abu Dhabi
Before 1984, each emirate , followed its own procedures governing the operations of foreign business interset. In 1984, Federal Law No. 8 of 1984, its amendment by Federal Law No. 13 of 1988-the ‘Commercial Companies Law‘ and its by -laws have been issued. The Law makes it conditional that the companies are wholly owned by nationals or that nationals own at lest 51% of their share capital, while the remaining 49% may belong to foreigners. The law provides that commercial companies established in the UAE may take any of the following legal forms:
- General Partnership Company
- Partnership in-commendam (Limited Partnership)
- Public Joint Stock Company(PJSC)
- Private Shareholding Company (PSC)
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Joint Venture (Consortium Company)
- Professional Companies ( Professional Partnership)
- Sole Proprietorship Firm to Practice a Profession
- Opening a Branch or Representative Office of a Foreign Company
- Establishments by GCC Citizens
1. General Partnership Company
This is a firm which consist of two or more partners who are jointly and severally responsible for all the firm’s liabilities. Partnership companies are confined to UAE nationals only because partners are responsible for the liabilities of the firm backed by all their assets, which cannot necessarily be applied to foreigners as in many cases their assets are held abroad.
2. Partnership in-commendam (Limited Partnership)
This is a firm consisting of one joint partner or more liable with all their monies for the firm, together with another in-commendam partner (or partners) only responsible for the liabilities of the firm to the value of their share in the capital. According to the law, all join partners in such an enterprise should be UAE nationals.
3. Public Joint Stock Company(PJSC)
A Public Joint Stock Company is a company with capital divided into equal negotiable shares. In such companies a shareholder’s liability is limited by the number of shares held by him. Minimum capital required to form a Public Joint Stock Company is AED 10 million with a nominal face value of AED 1-100, and for a banking entity it is AED 40 million and for insurance and investment companies it is AED 25 million.
Among the other requirements for the establishment of a Public Joint Stock Company is the preparation of founder’s agreement, a prospectus or invitation for public subscription supported by an overall business plan or feasibility study and auditor’s certificate,, a due diligence survey, memorandum and articles of association. A PJSC must have at least 10 founder members and its management should be vested in a board of directors consisting of a minimum of three to a maximum of fifteen persons whose term of office may not exceed three years.
The Chairman and majority of the Directors in a Public Joint Stock Company must be UAE nationals. In addition , at least 51% of the shares of the PJSC should be held by UAE nationals. The founder members may only hold 45% of the share capital, as 65% is required to be offered to the public. The Law stipulates that the companies engaged in banking, insurance or financial activities should be run as Public Joint Stock Companies.
Procedure to set up a Public Joint Stock Company
|Name||To be derived from the purpose|
|Capital||AED 10, 000,000|
|Duration of the Company||To be decided by the founder members|
|Memorandum of Association||To be prepared in consultation with the standard Memorandum of Association available with the Ministry|
|Number of founding members||Minimum 10|
|Committee to continue||3-5 members from the founding members|
Application Procedure for Public Joint Stock Company:
- Memorandum of Association
- Feasibility Study of the Project Application to be submitted to the Ministry of Economy
- Permission from the Emirate where the company is intended to be established
- Suggested completion period of the execution of the project to start its operations to be provided.
- The Ministry shall set up a committee to study the project.
- The committee shall prepare a report within 2 weeks of the application.
- The Ministry shall issue a decision within 60 days from the date of application. If the decision has not been issued within the period the application is deemed rejected.
- If the application is rejected, the applicants can contest before Civil Court within 60 days.
The founding member shall invite the subscribers to a general assembly meeting within 30 days of the close of subscription.
|Founders||20% or above but less than 45%. Certificate from the bank to be provided|
|Subscription of Money||25% of the commercial value. Balance 75% within a period of maximum 5 years. However, subject to company's contract.|
|Period of Subscription||10-90 days|
3/4 of the owners of the shares
If no quorum
Second Meeting- After 30 days; quorum is half of the owners of shares. Third Meeting-After 15 days; no quorum required.
After the general assembly within 7 days, application for declaration of compnay to be in existence to be provided to the Ministry.
Minister will issue a decree within 30 days regarding the establishment of the company.
4. Private Shareholding Company (PSC)
A Private Shareholding Company is incorporated by not less than three people. Unlike a public shareholding company, a private shareholding company, a private shareholding company cannot invite the public to subscribe to its shares. The minimum share capital to form a private shareholding company is AED 2 million. The Chairman and majority of the Directors in a private shareholding company must be UAE nationals.
5.Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A Limited Liability Company is the most common form of business entity formed in UAE. These can be formed by a minimum of two and a maximum of 50 persons whose liability is limited to their shares in the company’s capital. The minimum equity participation by UAE nationals is 51%. The capital required to form a Limited Liability Company is AED 150,000, contributed in cash or in kind.
Profit or loss distribution can be prescribed and the responsibility of management of an LLC can be vested in the foreign or national partners or in a third party. The shares of such a company are not open for subscription by the public and they do not issue negotiable shares. As per the Commercial Companies Law, LLC may be licenses to engage in a wide range of commercial activities, except for banking, insurance and the investment of money for third parties unless they obtain prior approval from the UAE Central Bank.
An LLC can be used a the preferred vehicle for a joint venture between a foreign party and UAE party (UAE national partner) if both parties have a common business objective to be achieved in the UAE.
Process of Establishing an LLC in Abu Dhabi UAE
- Obtain initial approval for name and activity from the department of economic Development.
- Obtain approval from concerned Ministry/Department in case the activity is of a special nature
- Obtain approval from the Environment agency-Abu Dhabi.
- Draw up company’s Memorandum of Association and have it legally notarized.
- Finalize an office tenancy in a commercial building.
- Capital contribution certificate to be obtained from bank for cash shares and auditor’s certificate for both cash shares and kind shares.
- Submit applications and initail approval, together with notarized copy of Memorandum of Association, capital certificate, tenancy contract etc.., to the Department of Economic Development.
- After scrutiny by the legal department, the Company name will be entered in the Commercial Register and will have its Memorandum of Association published in the Ministry of Economy Bulletin. The Department of Economic Development will then issue the license.
- Registration of the Company with Ministry of Labour and Department of Immigration.
Activities that require special approval in Abu Dhabi UAE
License to practice the majority of activities are directly issued by the department of economic Development. However, certain activities require special approval from the related Ministry/Department (e.g., medical pharmacies, etc. from the Ministry of Health; air transport, air cargo etc. from the Department of civil Aviation; financial institutions, banks, money exchange, etc. form the Central Bank; new industrial projects or expansions, from the Ministry of finance & Industry; publishing, printing, newspaper, advertising, video film, photography, etc., from the National Media Council (Ministry of Information); education, training, etc., from the Ministry of Education; agriculture, veterinary etc., from the Ministry of agriculture; customs clearance, freight forwarding, sea cargo, etc., from the Seaports & Customs Authority; Telecommunication equipment from the Ministry of Communication; branch of foreign company, Insurance Company, Chartered Accountants firm etc., form the Ministry of Economy).
6. Joint Venture (Consortium Company)
A Joint Venture is a type of company where two or more partners agree by contract to share the profits or losses of one or more commercial enterprises, which will be carried on in the name of one of the partners. Contract of Joint Ventures may be written or oral and are not required to be notarized. third parties can have recourse only to the partners with whom they deal. However, should the Joint Venture be disclosed to the third parties, all the partners are liable to the third parties. The existence of a Joint Venture may be proven by various means.
7. Professional Companies ( Professional Partnership)
Such a firm must be regarded as a professional company which practices a profession as its main object and where the partners rely for their livelihood on the intellectual effort they apply, rather than in profiting form the businesses of others. On this basis the professional companies are set up between professionals or partisans and carry out non-commercial activities. The firms, which are registered as professional companies or firms may only practice specific activities and not extend that to commercial activities. Such activities include rendering the services of legal practice and consultancy, auditing, organizing and keeping accounting records and books, civil engineering, architecture consultancies and services, managerial and economic consultancy and studies, technical services, medical and curative services, educational services and other similar services.
8. Sole Proprietorship Firm to Practice a Profession
A foreign investor is permitted to practice certain types of business activities allowed for non-nationals without having a national partner. Such activities are Management Consultancy, Computer Consultancy and similar services provided that such an investor holds a valid and legal UAE residence permit. However, it is a condition that he should have a local Service Agent and accordingly to have a service agency contract authenticated by the Court.
9. Opening a Branch or Representative Office of a Foreign Company
The Companies Law, in Article (313) allows a foreign company to exercise its main activity in the UAE by opening a branch or a representative office. The difference between the tow is that the foreign company which opens a branch in the UAE may freely exercise the activities for which it is licensed, whereas a representative office may practice only promotional business for the products and services provided by the parent company. Unlike a foreign branch a representative office cannot conduct a business operation or market its product.
In order to engage a foreign branch to conduct s its operation in Abu Dhabi it should obtain a license from the Ministry of Economy (“the Ministry”) prior to obtaining a license from he Department of economic Development. Foreign companies licensed to operate in Abu Dhabi may not start their activities before being inscribed in the Ministry’s Register of Foreign companies.
The main stipulation for opening a representative office or a branch of a foreign company in the UAE is to appoint a Service Agent who should be a UAE national. A Service Agent is not an empowered agent who can bind his principal as explained in ten definition of the term ‘agent’ in the Commercial Companies Law. A Service Agent is not required to undertake any financial obligations concerning the activities of the company’s branch or representative office within the UAE or abroad.
They should not interfere in the matters relating to the company’s management or activities. Their duties towards the company and others are confined to providing such services as required by the prinicpal . These services usually include obtaining entry/residence permits, acquiring the necessary licenses or facilitating the processing of its transactions with government authorities. The Service Agent is remunerated via a lump sum for the services rendered to the foreign company, subject to the agreement between them and the company.
Foreign company branches or representative offices are required to submit a bank guarantee of AED 50,000 in favor of the Ministry as part of the license application documentation. The license of the foreign company’s branch /representative office will be cancelled if it snot renewed within two years of the expiry date, and the fee due to the Ministry will be deducted from the guarantee.
10. Establishments by GCC Citizens
The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain) signed the United Economic Agreement in Riyadh on 7th June 1981, with a view to coordinate and unify economic, financial, monetary, commercial and industrial legislations, and the UAE endorsed this agreement in 1982. It is conditional as per the Federal Law No.2 of 1989 concerning permitting the GCC citizen to conduct a business operation in UAE that the investor should be a person residing in the UAE and practicing the required activity by themselves, and possessing a license to practice the activity in their country of origin.
Setting up Branches of GCC Companies in Abu Dhabi
A Company registered in GCC country can open a branch in Abu Dhabi without obtaining prior approval from the Ministry of Economy. Howe ever, the branch must fulfill the requirement of obtaining prior approval from an external department if the license procedure requires so. A GCC Company is not required to appoint a Service Agent.
If there are shareholders who are not from the GCC in the mother company, such a company shall be considered to be a foreign company and will be required to register at the Ministry of economy in accordance with usual procedure.
Source: Morison Menon