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DIFC Celebrates Strong 2010 Performance

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dubai Financial Centre (DIFC), has reported a strong performance throughout 2010. Highlights included the number of active registered companies operating from the DIFC continuing to grow throughout the year to reach 792 at the end of December 2010; a total of 113 companies registered in 2010, with 52% of new companies coming from North America and Europe, and 45% from Middle East and Asia.

Existing clients using the DIFC platform continued to expand their regional footprint, and a number of major international financial institutions joined the DIFC as first time entrants to the region last year. Meanwhile, there was continuing development of internationally recognized regulations, an annualized growth rate of 19% in terms of additional commercial space leased in DIFC, and the cost of doing business was revised to encourage businesses already based in the DIFC to expand and to attract new companies to the Centre.

The growth in the number of registered companies remained consistent in the last three quarters of the year at around 31-32 companies per quarter. On the other hand, the number of registration withdrawals continued to decrease. Today, the geographical diversity of firms operating out of the DIFC continues to show the Centre’s global stature, with approximately 41% of regulated firms coming from Europe; 30% from the Middle East, 16% from the US, 10% from Asia, and 3% from the rest of the world.

The DIFC is also home to 16 of the world’s top 20 banks, eight of the world’s largest asset managers and four of the world's five largest insurers. A number of the new companies establishing a presence in the DIFC are first-time entrants into the region.

The DIFC’s strategy is to build a business ecosystem that supports the growth of its clients and this is evidenced by the number of clients who increased their physical presence and deployed more resources in the region. This includes major international firms taking up significant additional space within the Centre, such as S&P, State Bank of India, and Deloitte. Other firms have expanded their operations dedicated to the region, including Credit Suisse, which has strengthened its integrated banking operations in the Middle East. Meanwhile, several major international financial institutions expanded their existing regional businesses managed from the DIFC to include their interests in Africa, and so using the DIFC as a platform to expand their regional footprint.

Throughout 2010, both the DFSA and the DIFC Authority introduced multiple regulatory changes in order to expand the DIFC's offering, and improve the ease of doing business and investing in the Centre.

Last year the DFSA, after consultation with a panel of market practitioners and experts, made a series of regulatory changes to the DIFC’s Collective Investment Funds regime in order to make the Centre a more attractive investment centre for both foreign and domestic fund managers. In the third quarter the Carlyle Group became the first company to establish and manage an investment vehicle under the new funds regime.

2010 also saw continued DIFC Authority efforts aimed at fostering international co-operation and dialogue between counterparties, as well as creating strategic partnerships with international jurisdictions thus strengthening the DIFC’s offering to clients. Six Memoranda of Understating (MoUs) were signed in 2010 to bring the total up to 11 MoUs with various jurisdictions. The MoUs signed in 2010 were with Luxembourg, Madrid Centro Financiero, the UAE Ministry of Finance, the Economic Zones World, the Dubai Department of Economic Development and the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing. Meanwhile, the other independent entities under the DIFC umbrella, the DFSA and DIFC Courts, have also both signed a number of different cooperation agreements during 2010.

Over the course of 2010, the DFSA entered into eight new bilateral MoUs and two new multilateral MoUs, bringing the total MoUs signed to date to 56. New bilateral MoU partners include the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority, Autorité des Marchés Financiers (France), the New York State Banking Department and The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Canada. Meanwhile, the DFSA signed multilateral MoUs with the Asian-Oceanian Standard-Setters Group and International Association of Insurance Supervisors. Meanwhile, the DIFC Courts signed its first international MoU with Jordan in Q2 2010. Adding to its existing MoUs with judicial counterparties from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ras Al Khaima.

Ahmed Humaid Al Tayer, Governor of DIFC, said: 
“The solid growth witnessed by DIFC in 2010 reflects the importance of the Centre to financial and business institutions looking to take advantage of opportunities present in the UAE and the wider region. With its continuous efforts to develop further its modern infrastructure, free zone offering and self-governing laws and courts, DIFC has consolidated its position as the pre-eminent and favoured financial centre in the region."

He added: “We have already started reaping the rewards of our new business strategy and we are confident that DIFC will continue to play an important role in providing market participants vital support in the rapidly changing business environment in the region.”

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIFC Authority, said:
 “We are very proud of the growth and success we have achieved on different levels in 2010. There is no doubt that the road ahead remains challenging. However, we believe that there are still many untapped opportunities that our new strategy will position us to take advantage of. We are committed to growing our existing client partnerships and we look forward to the continued support and guidance of our clients in our journey together to achieving greater success.”