Serving as a gateway to the MEASA region


Dubai’s leading financial hub, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), recently made an announcement that it has successfully earned US$7.8 trillion during the first half of 2016.

Commenting on these positive results, DIFC Governor, Essa Kazim, stated, “Dubai and DIFC serve as the gateway to the world’s fastest growing markets across the MEASA region. This is reflected in our latest results and initiatives, which represent a significant milestone in delivering on the Centre’s forward-looking 2024 strategy.”

“We continue to invest in building our world-class ecosystem, and are committed to creating an environment that enables our clients to take advantage of new opportunities that arise in the region.”

DIFC reached another milestone of crossing over 1,500 firms, with 1,539 companies now based in the Centre. 143 new businesses joined DIFC in the first half of the year alone, representing a 16% growth on this time last year.

Increase representation

According to WAM, the newly registered firms included companies taking the highest category licenses, such as HSBC, which announced moving its Middle East Headquarters and $40 billion of assets to the Centre. The first six months also saw reputable regional banks join the DIFC, including Ahli United Bank Limited – the first GCC bank to receive a Category 1 (full branch) license – and Bank of Palestine, which set up its first overseas operation. In other key sectors, the Centre welcomed its first Indian reinsurance firm, HDFC International Life and Re Company Limited, to its portfolio, along with leading Kuwaiti asset management firm, KAMCO Investment Company Limited, which established its first international office in DIFC.

The 1,539 active enterprises in the Centre are now made up of a record 425 financial services companies (an increase of 11% on this time last year).

Around 914 non-financial companies (a 22% increase on this time last year) and 192 retailers (2% increase on this time last year), taking a further 81,300 square feet of leased space. Occupancy rates remain extremely high representing the ongoing demand for DIFC space and in retail, the new Gate Avenue at DIFC project will significantly increase the size of the Centre’s retail portfolio.

These global firms come from around the world with 33% from the Middle East region, 18% from the EU, 15% from the UK, 12% from the US, 12% from Asia and a further 10% from elsewhere in the world.

DIFC surpassed 21,000 employees working in the Centre’s firms, an important landmark as the Centre looks to target 50,000 employees by 2024, meaning 42% of the target has been met. 21,076 employees, an increase of 14% or over 2,500 new professionals, from this time last year, now work in the Centre.

Building a world-class structure

DIFC’s key initiatives have included the launch of Gate Avenue at DIFC, a retail development which will link up all the Centre’s areas through 660,000 square feet of premium retail space hosting over 150 exclusive dining, shopping and leisure attractions. This will enhance the connectivity of the Centre and increase its attractiveness as a place to live, work and visit. Set for completion at the end of 2017, the project represents the Centre becoming a premium lifestyle destination and a new concept of urban development in the region.

The infrastructure was further developed by the addition of some real estate offerings. The joint venture between Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) and Brookfield Property Partners broke ground on its $1billion development in DIFC in January. The 282 metre-high, 54-storey ICD Brookfield Place tower will contain more than 900,000 square feet of Grade A office space and connect to a 150,000 sq ft, 5-storey retail centre. In March, luxury hotel chain Four Seasons opened its second property in Dubai, an eight-storey hotel located in DIFC’s Gate Village, featuring 106 rooms and suites. Also, steady construction progress has been made on Gate Village Building 11. Across a total built-up area of 200,000 square feet, the premises will offer 160,000 sq ft (82%) of office space and nearly 40,000 square feet (18%) for retail and F&B outlets.

Further recognition was given to DIFC’s innovative, co-located Data Centre, which offers clients real-time, secure access to markets, by becoming the first data centre in the UAE to receive the internationally recognised Management & Operations Stamp of Approval from the Uptime Institute. This is an important endorsement of the Centre’s cutting-edge technologies and ability to meet client servicing needs, which are increasingly built around data.

Partnership with DEWA

DIFC recently signed a significant agreement with DEWA’s Etihad ESCO, to replace nearly 30,000 LED light bulbs for driving 72% energy savings over the next six years. The deal makes DIFC the first free zone and financial hub in the region to commit comprehensively to such an ambitious energy saving scheme and is a testament to the Centre’s commitment to sustainable development across its integrated ecosystem.

In line with the Centre’s 2024 strategy, focused on facilitating business transactions, trade and investments across the South-South corridor, DIFC leadership undertook some highly successful roadshows to international markets, such as China, India, Singapore as well as London and Luxembourg.

In May, DIFC took part in City Week London 2016 where representatives shared views on global economic trends, asset management, fintech and emerging economies. DIFC also took the opportunity to showcase the Centre’s global leadership position and distinct proposition in line with the 2024 strategy.s

Growth strategy

The rest of 2016 and the next year will remain focused on DIFC’s growth strategy and leverage the momentum of the previous first half. This includes continuing to build up the Centre’s client base, developing new synergies and growth in its target sectors. One area of active development is fintech, where the DIFC will support, encourage and foster greater innovation in the Centre. The DIFC will also explore opportunities to forge new links further across the South-South corridor and the MEASA region, which is anticipated to be worth some US$10 trillion by 2020. As ever, further investment will be made to enhance the Centre’s physical and regulatory architecture in line with its 2024 strategy.

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