About The Links Group:
Established in 2002, The Links Group is a premier company formation specialist offering beneficial ownership protection to foreign companies entering the UAE and Qatar. We advise corporations and individuals on how best to structure a legal commercial presence in the Middle East to protect their ownership interests and afford clear succession planning.
Over the past 13 years we have supported over 1,000 corporations and individuals businesses across virtually every industry sector, helping them to set up, restructure, grow, expand and succeed in the UAE and Qatar. Our experience and expertise extends to clients in banking & finance, professional services, logistics, retail, hospitality, F&B, engineering, construction and manufacturing.
Headquartered in Dubai with offices in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Sydney and London, The Links Group is recognised regionally and internationally as the go-to-authority on company formation for both multi-national corporations and SMEs interested in expanding to the Middle East.
We are also the first company of its kind to be endorsed by the Government of Dubai through a strategic alliance with the Foreign Investment Office (FDI) of the Dubai Economic Department.
The Links Group undertakes all company formation activities on behalf of its clients to provide a seamless and stress-free process for establishing a commercial presence in the Middle East. This allows new market entrants to concentrate on their business plans while we clear a path with streamlined licencing, visa and related services.
The Links Group service also provides protection and peace of mind for our customers and partners in three key business areas:
Creating a legally robust, beneficial ownership structure
Providing you and your teams optimum flexibility
Ensuring you retain 100% control of your business
Our unrivalled portfolio of corporate services includes nominee local partnerships, corporate administration and government liaison support.
The Links Group difference is that foreign companies work with a highly structured board as their local partner as opposed to an unknown individual. This structure provides foreign businesses with a corporate entity to act as their nominee, local partner, shareholder or sponsor, thereby minimising the risks associated with appointing an unknown individual nominee and satisfying corporate governance requirements.
At The Links Group, we understand that one size doesn’t fit all. Our world class service and customer centric approach is completely bespoke to your business needs and adapts as your business develops. Assuring you with the legal protection that your business, your employees and their families need, The Links Group supports your entry into the market, your growth, and if necessary, your exit, seamlessly and without penalty or risk.
How to Really Mind your own Business in the UAE - maintaining 100% ownership control
By John Martin St. Valery, Founding Partner, The Links Group
With economic growth a top priority for the UK, the emerging economies of the Middle East, accessed through the UAE, present attractive opportunities for British businesses across a multitude of sectors.
The country ranks 22nd on the 2015 World Bank's Ease of Doing Business report having invested heavily in infrastructure to become one of the most pro-business environments in the Middle East. With its consistently positive economic outlook, excellent international connections and strong and stable leadership, the UAE continues to attract foreign investors.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the UAE’s GDP is expected to climb to $448bn in 2017, and with additional factors such as Dubai’s hosting of the World Expo in 2020, the UAE’s economic outlook is expected to remain positive.
While opportunities for all business sectors in the UAE have been growing since the announcement last year of Dubai’s success in hosting the global event, trade is expected to nett the biggest windfall. According to Dubai Trade, the emirate’s foreign trade is expected to touch $1.1 trillion as a result of hosting Expo 2020.
Encouraging firms to export more to emerging economies now forms an important part of the British government’s industrial strategy. It recognises British companies remain global leaders in key sectors and that demand is clear for their services and expertise within the UAE and wider Middle East.
Beyond hospitality, tourism, construction and related services, the UAE has prioritised the growth of its Islamic economy, green technology and finance sectors. Connecting British businesses to these opportunities has become a core mission for investment and trade offices in both countries.
Affectionately referred to as the eighth emirate of the UAE, the UK enjoys a strong trading history with the Gulf country as well as close political ties. The UAE government entities have increased the number of investor roadshows across the UK as British companies seek expansion to a promising, albeit familiar emerging market.
Retain ownership control
As preferred partner of the foreign direct investment office of the Department of Economic Development in Dubai (Dubai FDI), The Links Group is often invited to accompany the department in its presentations to British companies. While UAE remains an attractive destination for British companies looking to venture overseas, concerns remain over its company ownership laws.
Under the current Commercial Companies Law, Federal Law No. 8 of 1984, UAE nationals must own a minimum of 51 per cent of all public and private shareholding companies and limited liability companies incorporated onshore in the UAE.
Although foreign companies can retain 100 per cent ownership of their business in various free zones across the UAE, those companies wanting to trade with other onshore businesses, or with government entities, will still need to establish a legal commercial presence in Dubai and/or Abu Dhabi.
But this does not mean giving up ownership control. It is possible, imperative in fact, when setting up a company in the UAE to protect ownership interests and identify clear succession planning. Nominee partner structures for onshore trade licenses, a model which The Links Group pioneered in partnership with Dubai FDI, do exactly that.
This model ensures foreign companies work with a highly structured board as their local partner, nominee, shareholder or sponsor, thereby minimising the risks associated with appointing an unknown individual nominee. It is a structure that satisfies corporate governance requirements, particularly for publicly listed companies or large multinationals.
Foreign companies looking to form a company in the UAE often receive conflicting advice on the role of a local partner within their business. While the right Emirati partner may bring with them a valuable network of influential business and government contacts, their engagement on a commercial basis should not be confused with ownership of the foreign company.
Familiar legal system
The UAE Government is determined to further encourage the flow of foreign investment to this vibrant regional hub in a safe and secure way. Recently, the Dubai International Financial Centre signed a Memorandum of Guidance with the Commercial Court of England and Wales to further strengthen legal and trade relations between Dubai and the UK.
The agreement allows, for the first time, business to be done into, with, and from the Middle East using an English language court system and defines such issues as the mutual enforcement of judgments across jurisdictions. This helps provide companies with the security and peace-of-mind that their contractual obligations will be met.
There are many routes to setting up a legal commercial presence in the UAE, but not all of them will be able to get your business to where it needs to go. Foreign investors that position themselves correctly via the most appropriate means of legal incorporation will be well placed to capitalise on the lucrative opportunities the UAE and wider Middle East offer.