According to Greogry Mayew, the firm has a strong record of advising foreign companies on doing business in the UAE. Clients include Fortune 500 companies and leading international banks but also small and medium sized companies. “We are also regularly engaged by leading international law firms from the US, UK, other European countries, the Far East and elsewhere; and we are the exclusive UAE member of Lex Mundi, the World’s leading association of independent law firms,” he said.
Mr Mayew also pointed out that under local law and applicable regulations, companies doing business in Abu Dhabi are required to have a locally licensed presence. Mr Mayew said: “Generally, this means either forming a limited liability company or an Abu Dhabi branch of a foreign company. The appropriate legal form may vary depending on a variety of factors including the nature of the company’s business and the types of clients with which it will transact business. Our attorneys have experience helping clients to identify the appropriate legal form for a variety of different businesses.”
Indeed, a limited liability company requires a 51% UAE owner and a branch of a foreign company requires a UAE sponsor or national agent. “Note that 51% legal ownership requirement does not preclude the minority foreign shareholder from controlling the management of the company and profits need not be distributed proportionally to legal ownership. A variety of different contractual arrangements may be used to advance the interests of the interests of foreign shareholders. Our attorneys are experienced at negotiating and drafting contractual arrangements between foreign and local shareholders and sponsors,” Mr Mayew added.
Mr Mayew said that unlike, for example, the Cayman Islands or British Virgin Islands, the UAE is not a jurisdiction for proper companies. He said: “Foreign companies should understand that a licensed presence in Abu Dhabi entails having a physical office and must factor leased office space into their budget. In addition, the licensing process is bureaucratic and often confusing to foreigners and experienced local counsel can help guide foreign companies through the labyrinth.”
The UAE is a young country and its legal system is still developing. Rapid economic development has brought a movement towards international business standards generally but the corresponding legal framework is still a work in progress. Changes are expected in the coming years including possible new legislation relating to bankruptcy, commercial companies and arbitration.