Healthcare - UAE Foreign Direct Investment Developments

Healthcare activities are on the 'Positive List'

Pursuant to the Federal Decree Law No. 19 of 2018 (“Foreign Direct Investment Decree”), which permitted 100% foreign ownership by global investors in the UAE mainland, a ‘Positive List’ was released on Monday, 1 July, 2019, with the Dubai government announcing that “a resolution allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership in UAE's 122 economic sectors [was adopted], giving foreigners 100 per cent ownership of their investment. The sectors include agriculture, manufacturing . . . transportation, arts, construction, entertainment among others.”

Our full alert can be found here.

With regard to healthcare, the list includes ‘dentistry clinics’, ‘hospital activities’ and other ‘health related activities’.

The most notable activities under the ‘Positive List’ in the healthcare sector include:


100% foreign ownership of a hospital is permitted, subject to the approval of the competent authorities, which will evaluate the application on an economic needs test, taking into account the number of hospitals and medical centres in the proposed area. However, for hospitals to be established in the Dubai Healthcare City, the economic needs test is not required.

Further, a minimum share capital of AED 100,000,000 is required.

Veterinary activities

Share capital value requirements are in accordance with applicable laws.

Research and development in the scientific field

Share capital value requirements are in accordance with applicable laws.

Other activities in the field of human health

A minimum share capital of AED 70,000,000 is required.

Medical and dental clinics

Share capital value requirements are in accordance with applicable laws.

What does this mean for healthcare businesses and investors moving forward?

Under the UAE Commercial Companies Law No. 2 of 2015, the majority of foreign investors seeking to do business in the mainland UAE must have a UAE partner holding at least 51 per cent of the shares in such companies. The Foreign Direct Investment Decree provided exemptions to this general rule, allowing certain investors up to 100 per cent foreign ownership, however, it was not until this ‘positive list’ that it became clear as to which specific activities foreign investors could apply for 100 per cent foreign ownership.

While applications will be assessed on a case-by case basis, the Foreign Direct Investment Decree provides the framework for the application process as well as the appeals process for those application that are rejected. We expect that the Dubai Health Authority, in line with their Clinical Services Capacity Plan 2018-2030, will utilise this ‘positive list’ to incentivise the private sector to target the gaps identified in DHA’s capacity gap plan and foster private-to-private agreements between operators, leveraging their expertise to introduce new clinical services into Dubai.

While the Emirate of Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) has been accepting applications made by businesses pursuant to the Foreign Direct Investment Decree, we are paying close attention to the DEDs in the various Emirates as, in light of this ‘positive list’, they start to determine their formal procedure for applications under the Foreign Direct Investment Decree.

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