United Arab Emirates: Business Opportunities In Dubai – EXPO 2020
Last Updated: 20 March 2017

In 2020, Dubai will be the first city from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region to host the World Expo. The Expo will open on 20 October 2020 and close on 10 April 2021 and is expected to attract 25 to 30 million visitors. About 70% of these visitors will be international, travelling in to Dubai.

Hosting the event is expected to add at least 1.5 percentage points per year to Dubai's real gross domestic product (GDP) growth over 2014-2020, leading to an annual growth rate of 5.5%. Besides attracting more expatriates and driving the GDP, Expo is expected to boost employment and growth in the private sector. Standard Chartered estimates that around 300,000 direct jobs and around a million indirect jobs will be created in the UAE by 2020.

To prepare for the Expo, private and public sector stakeholders have banded together to manage the sheer volume of resources that an event of this scale can consume and generate. Deutsche Bank estimates Dubai will require AED 158 billion (US $43 billion) to upgrade its infrastructure. Official figures already show Expo-related spending of US$24 billion from 2014 to 2020. Some projects already underway include Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Dubai Canal Project, Mohammad Bin Rashid City, as well as the main venue for Expo 2020 located next to Dubai World Central.

International companies that are looking to set up a business in Dubai in advance of 2020 are urged to seek the assistance of a local corporate services provider with relevant knowledge and experience of company formation in Dubai and its many Free Zones. Sovereign Corporate Services has been based in Dubai since 1997 and has built up a strong, stable team of experts ready to carry out all aspects of company formation in Dubai on behalf of foreign investors and those already based in the region.

Sovereign Corporate Services has signed a formal, strategic partnership with Dubai FDI, the dedicated investment development agency within the Department of Economic Development. This partnership not only guarantees that international companies receive the best service available, but will also ensure that they can be fast-tracked through setting up procedures and introduced to a wider audience in the region.

In particular, Sovereign's "corporate shareholder model" provides a highly effective solution to foreign business owners who may be concerned by the UAE's foreign ownership restrictions. We would also recommend that a local company should be held by an overseas entity, such that the governing law and succession will be protected from sharia law. In preparation for the Expo, Sovereign has set up a number of holding companies with "DUBAI 2020" and similar in the company name so that clients can take advantage of this special opportunity for Dubai and the region.

Aside from business opportunities in Dubai, property owners can also expect to see an increase in house prices across the Emirate in advance of Expo. Property owners should explore the benefits of holding property in the appropriate offshore vehicle (JAFZA offshore company) to secure sharia-free succession for their property assets.

In addition to providing the legal structures for establishing a business, Sovereign further offers the administrative support that is necessary to maximise opportunities and achieve long-term sustainability – from full back-office solutions to assistance with tax and regulatory compliance. We provide a wide range of supporting services including accountancy and payroll, bank account introductions, human resources, pensions, insurance, trade mark and intellectual property protection, obtaining local licences and permits, executive relocation and specialist tax advice.

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