Dubai International Finance Centre
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a special economic zone in Dubai covering 110 ha (272 acres), established in 2004 and a financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) markets. DIFC has its own independent, internationally regulated regulator and judicial system, common law framework, global financial exchange, tax-friendly regime, and a large business community. The district houses hundreds of financial institutions, including wealth funds and private investors, but it also hosts multinationals, retail outlets, cafés, restaurants, residential space, public green spaces, hotels and art galleries.
DIFC is one of Dubai’s independent free-zones; it offers companies 100% ownership without the need for a local partner. The district is governed by a common-law framework distinct from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) legal system, with laws and regulations issued in English. DIFC offers clients a 50-year guarantee of zero taxes on corporate income and profits, complemented by the UAE’s network of double taxation avoidance treaties.
The DIFC is an independent jurisdiction under the Constitution of the United Arab Emirates, with its own civil and commercial laws distinct from those of the wider UAE, and its own courts. DIFC laws and regulations are written in English and default to English law in the event of an ambiguity. The DIFC Courts have judges taken from leading common law jurisdictions including England, Singapore and Hong Kong. The DIFC’s independent jurisdiction extends to a range of areas including corporate, commercial, civil, employment, trusts, and securities law matters. Other laws of the UAE or the Emirate of Dubai, such as criminal law and immigration regulations, continue to apply within the DIFC.
The DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre is an independent centre of international arbitration that uses rules modelled on the London Court of International Arbitration.
The principal governing body of the DIFC is the DIFC Authority. The financial services regulator is the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), which regulates the conduct of financial services in and from the DIFC. The DFSA is distinct from the UAE’s federal Securities and Commodities Authority, whose jurisdiction covers the wider UAE outside the boundaries of the DIFC.
International financial centre
Licence applications are considered from financial institutions in the sectors. The units offer benefits such as 0% tax on income and profits, 100% foreign ownership, no restrictions on foreign exchange or capital/profit repatriation, operational support and business continuity facilities.
One of the key elements of the centre is a privately held financial exchange that opened in September 2005 as Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) but was rebranded as NASDAQ Dubai in the year 2008.
The trading hours of NASDAQ Dubai are from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm (06:00 am to 10:00 am GMT), from Sunday to Thursday.
Companies listed on NASDAQ Dubai include ordinary shares listed by DP World along with DEPA. DP World’s initial public offering was the largest ever in the Middle East and raised $4.96 billion; 15 times oversubscribed, it is one of the most valued companies in the Middle East Region.
NASDAQ Dubai is regulated by Dubai Financial Services Authority.
DIFC FinTech Hive
In April 2017, the DIFC announced its initiative to accelerate the growth of Financial Technology in the region. Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer at DIFC commented: ‘FinTech Hive at DIFC will connect innovators in financial services technology with the banks, financial institutions and service providers within our dynamic ecosystem at DIFC’. The plan is for ten participating developers to present their products to venture capitalists. According to FinTech Middle East, DIFC FinTech Hive has played a significant role in the emerging financial technology market in the United Arab Emirates. Among the new players of the emerging market, the source noted Bridg, Democrance, Beehive and more.
Technology partners Facebook and Envestnet | Yodlee have also been announced.
On 22 January 2020, DIFC FinTech hive announced the launch of a startup accelerator programme for fintech startups in Middle East Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region under the name ‘FinTech Hive Scale Up Programme’.