The UAE Ministry of Economy has denied giving 100 per cent foreign ownership to Apple for opening its stores in the UAE.
Bloomberg News agency, quoting two people with knowledge of the matter, said Apple is likely to be exempted from foreign ownership laws in the UAE.
The agency said the privilege was a condition for the world’s largest listed company to set up in the UAE.
But Ahmad Al Hosani, Director of Trade Registration Department, Ministry of Economy , told Gulf News that with specific reference to Apple Inc, as with all foreign companies, it is subject to the UAE’s laws and regulations.
“Apple was licenced in the UAE through the Ministry of Economy according to the requirements of, and in compliance with the Commercial Companies Law, as well as the ministerial resolution on foreign company branches. Within this mandate, branches of foreign companies in the UAE have full management rights provided they work through an Emirati service agent,” he said.
He said that global companies establish their business in the UAE according to relevant legislations including the Commercial Companies Law, which serves as a legislative umbrella for such overseas companies.
It is not clear whether Apple needs a new licence to open a store as the US company already has an office at Emaar Square, Downtown Dubai. It is also unclear who Apple’s partner in the UAE is.
Apple did not respond to Gulf News queries.
Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, said in March the UAE is at an advanced stage of drafting a foreign investment law that would allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of businesses.
At present, foreigners cannot own more than 49 per cent of any UAE firm unless it is incorporated in a free zone.
Yassir Ahmad, legal consultant at Sunil Thacker Associates, said the 100 per cent foreign ownership rule will come and they [Ministry] are still studying it. It may be issued in 2016.
For the time being, he said the companies law remains unchanged. “Once it [new companies law] is official, the court will issue the order,” he said.
Apple has been the talk of the town since Tim Cook visited Dubai Mall on February 2, 2014.
Speculation has been rife the company, which does not have an official Apple store in the country, may be looking to open a flagship store at either Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Sukhdev Singh, vice-president at market research and analysis services provider AMRB, said it is a “good move” if it happens. Apple will get a great launching pad in Dubai. From Dubai’s point of view, it shows the flexibility from the government side to attract foreign companies to set up shops in Dubai and use it as a launching pad. “Both ways it works well,” he said.