Apple Inc. has been granted an exemption from foreign ownership laws in the United Arab Emirates that will allow it 100 percent control of operations in the country, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The dispensation was a condition for the world’s largest listed company to set up in the U.A.E., the people said, asking not to be identified as the plans are private. Apple will open its first Middle East store in Dubai this year and then Abu Dhabi after securing the privileges, according to the people.
Under local regulations, all businesses operating in the U.A.E. must be 51 percent owned by Emiratis or a company wholly owned by them unless they are based in free-zones. The government is working on a new foreign investment law that would allow 100 percent foreign ownership in some industries, Minister of Economy Sultan Al Mansoori said in March.
“Apple was licensed in the U.A.E. through the Ministry of Economy according to the requirements of, and in compliance with the Commercial Companies Law, as well as the ministerial resolution on foreign company branches,” Ahmad Al-Hosani, director of trade registration at the Ministry of Economy, said in an e-mailed statement.
The U.A.E. is an attractive market for Apple, whose iPhone business makes up 63 percent of its revenue in the most recent quarter. There are about 17 million active mobile subscriptions in the U.A.E. and 61 percent of them are smartphones, according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. The iPhone 5s was the most popular handset in the country in the fourth quarter of 2014, the latest figures from the regulator show.
A spokeswoman for Apple in Dubai didn’t respond to calls and e-mails requesting comment.