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Doing Business in Abu Dhabi

Learn about forming a tax free entity in Abu Dhabi

Hi, Sunil here to talk about setting up a business in Abu Dhabi

If you have been sleeping or hiding under the rock, you must have missed that Abu Dhabi is the next Dubai, except bigger, better and much smarter.

This region is attracting foreign investment and expat migration faster and in larger scale than anywhere else in the world (as of 2009).

Free zone company formation activity in Abu Dhabi is increasing, as entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the favourable business environment.

They also understand that it is best to get in ahead of the competition to establish a strong hold.

Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi is also a tax free haven.


On April 19th 2007, HH Sheikh Khalifa issued a decree establishing a committee for the Abu Dhabi media free zone. The free zone was given the name "TwoFour54" (2454, twofour 54, two four 54) which is the GPS location of Abu Dhabi. Over the last year and a half, there has been a lot of work to get the right partners involved to differentiate this proposition from the equivalent in Dubai.

With partners like AOL Time Warner (CNN), the BBC, Pearson (FT), Bertelsmann (Random House) and NewsCorp (HarperCollins), the best media companies in the world have descended on Abu Dhabi, knowing it is the real deal for the future.

And not only have the Western Media companies joined up no doubt there will be many more that sign up - or are invited to sign up. There will be companies that are developed out of Abu Dhabi to become the future big players in Media tomorrow.


Historically there have been many challenges establishing media businesses in the UAE including factors such as:
  • Shortage of local training and opportunity to develop local creative and entrepreneurial skills.

  • Inadequate financing for new ideas and business start-ups.

  • Lack of government support for media sector (e.g. difficulties with freelance visas).

  • Outdated regulatory framework.

  • Limited production and broadcast facilities, no dedicated content creation mandate.

Under its 2030 Masterplan Abu Dhabi Government has established to dedicate major efforts to overcome the above listed challenges and become a regional center of excellence for content creation:
  • Offer specific media training courses.

  • Create an investment fund and creative labs with development opportunities for local talent.

  • Embrace new Governement initiatives to grow Abu Dhabi’s cultural and media output.

  • Establish a regulatory framework to support creative industries.

  • Build state-of-the-art production and broadcast facilities to stimulate the local creative economy and attract fresh creative talents to Abu Dhabi.


Mubadala, a leading business development and investment company is backing this new media zone and is chaired by the UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. His backing is crucial, as he is the architect for all the changes that are happening in Abu Dhabi. Mubadala invests in a wide portfolio, notably including 5% of Ferrari, but also has backed some of the University establishments in the Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi, has been playing second fiddle since all the world attention has focused on Dubai prior to 2009, but with roughly 9% of the world's oil reserves and significantly more land mass than Dubai, Abu Dhabi has time and money on its hands, and its strategy is watch and learn while progressing at a slower pace. This pace is starting to pick up. Going forward, Abu Dhabi's position as a cultural hub for the Middle East is a smart one.


Wikipedia: Abu Dhabi is trying to position itself as the 'Cultural Hub' of the Middle East, taking this mantle from such neighboring cities as Beirut and Cairo. It is home to a number of cultural institutions including the Cultural Foundation and the National Theater.

The Cultural Foundation is home to the UAE Public Library and Cultural Center. Various cultural societies such as the Abu Dhabi Classical Music Society have a strong and visible following in the city.

The recently launched Emirates Foundation makes grants in support of the arts, as well as to advance science and technology, education, environmental protection and social development. The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) will be based in Abu Dhabi.

The creation of a major "up-scale cultural district" on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island has begun with the groundwork for a US$200 million Guggenheim Museum. The Frank Gehry-designed museum will display a "prestige collection" of modernist and contemporary art and is scheduled for completion in 2011.

Upon completion, it is expected to be the largest exponent of the prestigious Guggenheim Museums. In addition, there will be three further cultural focal points: The Performing Arts Center, The Sheikh Zayed National Museum and The Maritime Museum.


Dubai Media City (DMC) and Dubai Internet City (DIC) have had significant creativity but have really been more or less real estate plays. If you wanted to set up in the UAE companies used to go into DMC or DIC. Abu Dhabi is playing it differently because their media city is following a different strategy. The emirate’s strategy for media is to foremost underpin, develop and cultivate culture. Culture needs substance - Abu Dhabi has realized this important factor.

The Media City that Abu Dhabi is creating will be significantly different to Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City which up to now have been free zones for anything that vaguely fit the category. However, most of the "media" comes out of Dubai apart from Abu Dhabi Media which, in addition to Arabic TV Channels, Arabic Magazines, Radio Stations (English and Arabic) runs Al Ittihad news and The National, the new English Language newspaper.

ADMC will be moving into the media zone as well. These all compete with propositions in Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt and the rest of the Arabic World.


According to local research statistics the outlook for advertising revenue is still positive across the region (Research Study Arab Media Outlook 2008 - 2009, by Pricewaterhouse Coopers).

It forecasts that the Middle East market will expand at double-digit annual rates during the next five years, by far outstripping the average of 6.6 percent growth across the rest of the world. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the ‘Pan-Arab region’ as a whole are forecast to lead the rapid market growth. In each of these areas, the entertainment and media market is growing at a faster rate than the nation’s GDP.

Another common feature that the Middle East region is witnessing is the fast-growing spending on Internet access markets, both wired and wireless. Across the region, the broadband household universe will expand at a compound annual rate of more than 20 percent. Internet markets in KSA and the Pan-Arab region are forecasted to grow at 30.1 percent compounded annually, rising to $13.8 billion in 2012 – surpassing growth in other emerging markets, particularly Russia.


Abu Dhabi Media City is a purpose built environment that will focus around TV Production, Media Content Creation, Film, Television, Broadcasting, Music, Digital Media, Gaming and Publishing. IT & Media supporting companies are invited as well and there may be more coverage.

The four pillars of twofour54 are:

Tadreeb - the learning academy

Training providers include world class training institutions such as BBC, Thomson Foundation, Reuters.

Ibtikar - innovation & support

Fostering partnerships in the media industry, ventures for start-up businesses, business development, creative labs providing grants for talents through seed funding

Intaj - state-of-the-art production facilities

Flexible use, rent on a job or project by project basis, high quality, cost-effective facilities that are ideal for small and medium sized enterprises

Tawasol - one-stop-shop

Government services to partners, property management

Introductory rates for their business center are as follows:
  • 1 desk office AED 6,500 per month

  • 2 desk office AED 9,250 per month

  • 4 desk office AED 15,900 per month

Sample Quote:
  • License Fee, starting at AED 10.000 p.a. (depends on type of business)

  • One-time registration fee AED 2,500

  • 1-desk office (smallest unit) AED 6,500 per month (if you sign up before August 09), after August AED 8,950 per month - fully fitted with furniture
Note: There are no minimum requirements for share capital. In comparison with Dubai Free Zones (DMC, DIC), the costs of setting up are cheaper.

The following options for setting up a company are available:
  • Limited Liability Company with Individual Shareholders

  • Limited Liability Company with Corporate Shareholders

  • Branch Office of a Foreign Company

  • Branch Office of an UAE Company
If you are interested in setting up in Abu Dhabi’s aspiring new Media Free Zone, I recommend you contact Christine for professional assistance and guidance through the set up procedures.

Contact Christine and her team Now!

Christine is a very busy person and her company only deals with serious customers. If you are simply searching for information on how to set-up a business in Dubai, then I recommend you visit the business section on

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