Free Zones in Abu Dhabi : List of Free Zones in Abu Dhabi with Reviews, Contact Details, Telephone Numbers, Business Setup Procedures & Location Map. Abu Dhabi is the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest of the seven Emirates occupying more than 80% of the country’s total land mass and featuring a coastline that stretches over 700 kilometres. The Free Zone Authorities in Abu Dhabi are the government bodies registering non-resident companies and issuing business licenses.
Establishing a business venture in one of the free zones in Abu Dhabi is an attractive option for foreign investors looking to tap into the huge potentials and excellent business environment offered by the Emirate. These free zones are set up as part of the Emirate’s ambitious economic diversification pursuit, and intended for spurring further foreign investment in the local economy. The free zones in Abu Dhabi mainly work in areas including logistics, media and light, medium and heavy industries.
Establishing Business within Free Zones in Abu Dhabi
Since the main objective of establishing free zones is to attract and facilitate investment and remove bureaucratic barriers, procedures for establishing businesses within Abu Dhabi free zones are simple and less time-consuming.
In each free zone, an independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) is responsible for issuing free zone operating licences and assisting companies to establish their business.
Investors can register their ventures as Free Zone Establishments (FZE) or Free Zone Companies (FZC), or branches or representative offices of the existing or the parent company based in the UAE or abroad. Free Zone Establishments and Companies are considered Limited Liability Companies, and are subject to the relevant laws and regulations of the free zone where it is established.
Advantages of Free Zones in Abu Dhabi
With the intensified global trend toward trade liberalisation, Abu Dhabi Government, which is keen to take the full advantage of various opportunities and challenges created by the integration into the global economy, provides tremendous support for businesses established within the free zones.
It provides a multitude of incentives, such as 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies eliminating the need for a local partner, low-cost operational environment, full repatriation of capital and profits and exemption from import, export, corporate and personal taxes. Additional support is provided through the One Stop Shop service to help companies expedite the process of obtaining necessary permits, licences, approvals and clearances from the relevant authorities and find skilled manpower and suitable accommodation.
Foreign merchandise of different types or origin is allowed into UAE free zones and duty-free and is also allowed to exist abroad or into other free zones and duty-free without being subject to customs duties or taxes. Foreign merchandise re-exported from the UAE is allowed access to the free zones and duty free abroad provided that they comply with the export restrictions and customs procedures applicable to re-exports.
List of Free Zones in Abu Dhabi
Free zones may be broadly categorized as sea port free zones, airport free zones, and mainland free zones. Free-trade zone exemptions are:
100% foreign ownership of the enterprise
100% import and export tax exemptions
100% repatriation of capital and profits
Corporate tax exemptions for up to 50 years
No personal income taxes
Assistance with labor recruitment, and additional support services, such as sponsorship and housing.
Each Free Zone is designed around one or more business industry categories and only offers licenses to companies within those categories. An independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) governs each free zone, and is the agency responsible for issuing FTZ operating licenses and assisting companies with establishing their business in the FTZ.
Investors can either register a new company in the form of a Free Zone Establishment (FZE) or simply establish a branch or representative office of their existing or parent company based within the UAE or abroad. An FZE is a limited liability company governed by the rules and regulations of the Free Zone in which it is established. Except for acquiring nationality in the UAE, the provisions of the Commercial Companies Law (CCL) do not apply to FZEs, provided that the Free Zones have special provisions regulating such companies.
Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad)
Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad), located in Al Taweela area between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is a vital project within Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.
It offers a world class transportation infrastructure including sea, air, roads and rail networks and easy access to local, regional and international markets with more than 2 billion consumers.
In addition, 100 percent foreign ownership will be allowed in certain strategic economic sectors.
Kizad has launched a One Stop Shop service aimed at helping businesses speed up the process of obtaining the necessary permits, licences, approvals and clearances from the government bodies and licensing authorities.
Masdar City Free Zone and Science and Technology Park
Masdar City, the flagship project of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), operates as a special economic zone with a focus on clean technology and renewable energy.
As a test-bed for renewable energy, companies established in Masdar City Free Zone can pilot, demonstrate, refine, develop and commercialise their technologies.
The free zone offers several advantages for establishing clean energy start-ups including one stop shop service which facilitates easy registration, licensing and recruitment procedures. Companies are also offered benefits of free zones including 100 per cent foreign ownership, full repatriation of capital and profits and exemption from import, export, corporate and personal taxes.
To know more about Masdar City Free Zone and Science and Technology Park, please find the relevant link under the right column.
Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone
The Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone is a comprehensive business park being developed by Skycity, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), in the vicinity of Abu Dhabi International Airport. The free zone offers facilities and infrastructure such as commercial offices, plots of land for development, warehousing units and logistic services, and mainly targets aviation, aerospace, airport services, logistics, cargo and freight sectors.
It offers numerous benefits for investors such as tax exemptions, 100 per cent foreign company ownership, world-class infrastructure and multiple facilities.
To know more about Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone, please find the relevant link in the right column of the page.
Twofour54 was set up as a media free zone in Abu Dhabi pursuant to the Law No. (12) of 2007 establishing the Media Zone Authority (MZA) to position the Emirate as a leading player in Arabic media content creation industry.
Twofour54 is responsible for developing and implementing the regulations, policies and strategies for the operation of the free zone.
The media free zone also provides attractive financial benefits for companies and allows 100 per cent foreign ownership within an effective and clear regulatory framework.
Prominent names in the international media arena including BBC, CNN, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Financial Times have operations in twofour54.
Establishing a company in the Media Free Zone
The Regulatory Affairs Department at twofour54 oversees the establishment, registration and licensing of companies within the free zone.
There are 3 ways to set up a company in the free zone. An investor can set up a company as a Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZLLC), or establish a branch of an existing company or licence as a Freelancer.
Setting Up Process in Abu Dhabi Free Zones
Setting up a business in Abu Dhabi Free Zones requires planning and decision making through different phases. This involves preparation of comprehensive business plan, choosing suitable infrastructure, estimating required human work force etc. The business registration or licensing process can be completed only after depositing the minimum capital mandated by the chosen Free Zone, in a bank account in UAE. A company being formed may have either an individual shareholder or corporate shareholder or both. The incorporation process requires the shareholders to sign the documents in the presence of Free Zone authorities.
Business Licensing in Abu Dhabi Free Zones
A business license issued by Abu Dhabi Free Zones permits a company to practice the business activity mentioned in its license subject to the Free Zone Regulations. The primary step in setting up a business entity in Abu Dhabi Free Zone is the selection of business activities. This is so because the other phases of business setting up including the selection of proper legal business structure and number of business licenses can be decided only based on the selected business activities. The reservation of name for the company is as important as choosing the business activity. The name should not resemble the names of any company registered in the Free Zones or reserved for the Government. The Free Zone has the discretionary power to accept or reject a name.
Types of Legal Entities in Abu Dhabi Free Zones
An individual or a corporate entity can do business in Abu Dhabi Free Zones being registered in any of the following legal forms:
- Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ-LLC)
- Branch of a Foreign Company, where the applicant is a foreign registered corporate person
- Branch of a UAE Company, where the applicant is a UAE registered corporate person
- An individual can do business in Abu Dhabi Media Zone as a freelancer on being issued a Freelance License
Abu Dhabi Extends Free-zone Incentives
Foreign companies setting up around Abu Dhabi’s airports will soon be able to exercise 100 per cent ownership and repatriate all of their profits under a decree from the emirate’s Executive Council. Under the order issued in January, properties of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) were granted free-zone status to encourage foreign investment and further the emirate’s economic diversification. Adac manages Abu Dhabi International, Al Bateen Executive and Al Ain International airports.
“There is a keen interest by companies in setting up operations in free zones at the airport,” said James Bennett, the chief executive of Adac. “It is very exciting, and we are looking forward to hopefully getting some of our first people signed up in the not-too-distant future.”
The company is expected to develop separate plans for the three airports. While Abu Dhabi International is the capital’s primary airport for commercial airlines, Al Bateen Executive will focus on business jets. At Al Ain International, Adac and Mubadala Development are planning a cluster for aerospace manufacturing, training, maintenance and engineering.
Mubadala Development is a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government. A company setting up outside the UAE’s free zones is required to enlist a local partner that has 51 per cent ownership in the company. As a result, the seven emirates have sought to use free zones to stimulate foreign investment. The effort includes putting companies with similar activities in clusters.
Nationwide, foreign investment in free zones has reached Dh268 billion (US$73bn), the second highest in the Arab world, data from the UN show. While Dubai has dozens of free zones, Abu Dhabi has been more cautious in its approach, and Adac is only the third entity in the capital to win free-zone approval.
HSBC said in November that offering 100 per cent foreign ownership in Abu Dhabi would attract foreign investment, bringing in industries beyond energy, transport and logistics.
The other free-zone entities in the capital include twofour54, a media hub that was set up in 2008 with partners such as the BBC, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Thomson Foundation, CNN, HarperCollins and the Financial Times.
The Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad) in Taweelah is the third free zone. It was granted its special status last year and is marketing itself on that basis.
Kizad is seeking to distinguish itself with a focus on zones dedicated to single industries such as aluminium, glass, paper, petrochemicals, metals and food.
However, Abu Dhabi Ports Company, which is developing Kizad, said it would operate the zone with a dual structure, offering ownership to foreign companies only in cases where proposed projects benefited Abu Dhabi’s strategic economic objectives. Masdar City, which is being planned as a zero-carbon commercial and residential development, is also expected to become an Abu Dhabi free zone.
Adac is conducting the regulatory, legal and other preparation to develop its free zones, Mr Bennett said. “In the meantime, we are developing a marketing plan and having conversations with companies interested in relocating to our airports.”
While food catering and fuelling are two large industries that support airlines, a number of industries also benefit from the airline industry, including cargo and logistics, and some light manufacturing.
More than 100 companies have applied to set up operations at the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (Kizad) in Taweelah in the last five months, Abu Dhabi Ports Company officials said. The multi-billion dollar industrial park and ports project is scheduled to open for business by the end of next year, and received a major boost in November when the Abu Dhabi Government’s decided to make Kizad the emirate’s first industrial free zone offering 100 per cent foreign ownership.
ADPC has also given approval and signed preliminary approvals with more than 25 companies, said Khaled Salmeen, the executive vice president of industrial zones, during the National’s Industry Insights forum held in the UAE capital today. The company hopes to formally announce the first wave of industrial tenants in the second half of this year.
“We have received applications in the triple digits and as such we have processed a huge number of those in terms of offers and signing agreements,” Mr Salmeen said. Kizad, located near the border with Dubai, is Abu Dhabi’s largest infrastructure project to date. Its funding commitments up until the end of next year stand at Dh26.5bn (US$7.2bn) for the first phase of development over 51sq/km, including industrial land space and an offshore port.
It is hoped the overall project will generate tens of thousands of jobs and encompass nearly 420 sq/km in the coming decades as major industrial players invest in facilities for the steel, aluminium, plastics and petrochemicals, construction, food, glass, paper and pharmaceuticals industries. Its largest tenant to date is Emirates Aluminium (Emal), which has been operating a smelter on the premises since December 2009.
Masdar City website
List of free-trade zones in the United Arab Emirates, What is Free Zone in UAE? What is a free zone company? What is the definition of free zone?