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DUBAI: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a business zone, says it aims to double the number of companies there over five years by serving as a base for business with China, south Asia and Africa, not merely the Gulf.
With political unrest plaguing parts of the Middle East and Western financial firms still retrenching because of debt problems in their home markets, the business environment is challenging for Dubai.
But Jeffrey Singer, Chief Executive of the DIFC Authority, which manages the business zone, said Dubai could keep expanding rapidly as the Gulf’s main financial centre by becoming a conduit for trade and investment with a larger region.
“Increasingly institutions are using Dubai not just as a base for business in the Gulf, but as a base to access a much wider area,” he said. The DIFC, opened in 2004, is one of the United Arab Emirates’ “free zones”, offering foreign investors 100 percent ownership of their ventures and business-friendly regulation.
The number of registered firms operating in the DIFC rose 7 percent last year to 912, while workers at those firms jumped 16 percent to 14,000. The DIFC has declared it wants to double its size in the five years from 2011, when it had 848 companies.
The DIFC has had to contend over the past year with the shrinkage of some of its top U.S. and European clients. This week, Citigroup Inc began laying off investment bankers across its Europe, Middle East and Africa division, with 50 positions to be eliminated in the near term.
But Singer said that overall, cutbacks of investment bankers and back-office staff at Western institutions in the DIFC had been more than offset by their expansion in other areas, as foreign firms tried to capture part of the oil-rich Gulf’s infrastructure spending boom. Reuters