The Benefits Of Setting Up a UAE Holding Company

The Benefits Of Setting Up a UAE Holding Company


Ambia Hoque


The UAE, known for its strategic location and business-friendly environment, is an appealing choice if you’re considering opening a holding company. We explore the unique benefits you’d get from establishing a holding company in the UAE, including legal, financial, and tax advantages.

Plus, the UAE offers an exciting mix of business opportunities and investment avenues. Let’s explore how the structure of UAE holding companies can provide a valuable shield against liability while extending a wide range of other advantages. By the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll be equipped to decide whether the UAE is the ideal location to set up your holding company.

What Is A Holding Company?

A holding company is a special type of corporate bank account or business entity primarily to own and control other companies, known as subsidiaries. Unlike most businesses, a holding company doesn’t usually get involved in the day-to-day operations of these subsidiaries. Instead, it keeps an eye on its own companies and assets. This structure lets the holding company have more control while spending less money, as it can buy a majority stake in a business to have complete control.

The structure of a holding company can change based on several factors, including the business structure, number of investors, and employees. There are different types of holding companies, including pure holding companies, mixed holding companies, immediate holding companies, and intermediate holding companies. A pure holding company’s only job is to hold the controlling stock or membership interests in other companies. On the flip side, a mixed holding company, besides owning and controlling subsidiaries, does have its own business operations.

The management of a holding company is in charge of overseeing how the subsidiaries are run and deciding where to invest their money. Each subsidiary company has its own management who runs the day-to-day business. This separation of operations and control can be both a benefit and a drawback. On the one hand, it allows for a focus on strategic oversight at the holding company level, while on the other hand, it may lead to conflicts if the holding company’s management needs to be better versed in the operating companies’ businesses.

So, while a holding company is a business entity that exists to own other companies and maintain oversight of its own companies and assets, it’s a complex structure that requires careful planning and management.

Benefits of Establishing a Holding Company in UAE

The UAE offers a plethora of advantages for those looking to establish a holding company. These benefits encompass legal, financial, tax, and structural aspects, making the UAE an enticing destination for global entrepreneurs and investors.

Legal Benefits

The UAE’s comprehensive legal framework for holding companies is a significant attraction to facilitating foreign investment. These entities can possess a variety of assets, including shares in other businesses, intellectual property, cash assets, real estate, investments, stocks, and shares, or any other property that can be structured as a company asset. This versatility allows you to participate in a diverse range of business activities under the umbrella of a single holding company.

The UAE provides various types of holding companies, including onshore, free zone, and offshore. Each type has its unique advantages. For instance, onshore holding companies can engage in administrative activities through their subsidiaries without directly participating in trading or commercial activities. This structure offers a degree of legal protection and risk mitigation for your holding company.

Financial Perks

From a financial standpoint, holding companies in the UAE are appealing due to the ease of access to credit and the supportive business environment. Lenders often consider the financial strength of the subsidiaries managed by the parent company, making it easier for you to establish credit with banks, creditors, and other organisations.

The UAE Government provides businesses with a nurturing environment, offering several incentives to foreign investors. These incentives make the UAE a financially appealing location for holding companies.

Tax Advantages

The UAE is renowned for its favourable corporate tax regime, too. Suppose you establish a holding company in the UAE. In that case, you’ll benefit from tax savings since income earned by foreign companies isn’t taxable in the UAE. Moreover — the UAE has double tax treaties spread across over 80 countries, including Europe, Asia, and Latin America — further enhancing its tax appeal. It can help reduce or eliminate withholding taxes on dividends, interest, and royalties.

The UAE offers a stable and business-friendly environment for holding companies, with a well-developed legal system and strong protection of intellectual property rights. There’s no specific paid-up capital requirement for forming a holding company in the UAE, which simplifies the process and reduces entry barriers in the market. This lack of a minimum paid-up share capital requirement makes the establishment process easy and affordable for you.

Investment Opportunities

In addition to tax advantages, a UAE holding company can provide access to various investment opportunities in the region, including real estate, infrastructure, and emerging industries. The UAE has a robust financial sector, with a well-regulated banking system and access to international capital markets, making it easier for holding companies to raise capital and finance their operations.

Additionally, the UAE government provides businesses with a supportive and friendly environment, offering several incentives to foreign investors. This, along with the fact that there’s zero corporate taxation and no specific paid-up capital requirement for you to form, makes it an attractive destination for investors.

Structural Flexibility

Structural flexibility is another significant advantage of setting up a holding company in the UAE. The holding company can own and manage shares of other companies in any business sector, providing a high level of flexibility in your investment decisions.

The holding company may own both physical and intellectual assets of the subsidiaries under its management and ownership. However, holding company shareholders can only undertake direct business activities with some level of managerial control over its subsidiaries.

The management board of a holding company in the UAE is responsible for the continuous supervision of subsidiary companies, the appointment of a director, ensuring adequate capital, risk management, and honouring contracts and agreements. This structure allows for streamlined management procedures and enhanced privacy for investors like you.

How Do Holding Companies Work In the UAE?

A holding company in the UAE is a legal entity that owns assets and/or shares of other companies. These entities don’t engage in any business activity themselves. Instead, they hold their subsidiaries to manage them, providing a level of protection for shareholders by isolating their assets from the liabilities of their subsidiaries.

Separating the assets of the subsidiaries from the holding company itself can help reduce the liability for the owner’s limited liability company if one of the subsidiaries encounters financial trouble. This structure can help businesses mitigate the risk of losing assets to creditors. Moreover, holding companies can write off the losses of one subsidiary against the profits of another, resulting in a lower tax bill for all companies involved.

In the UAE, you’ll find two main types of holding companies: onshore or mainland holding companies and free zone holding companies. The former are registered as commercial businesses and must stick to the UAE’s Companies’ Legislations, regulated by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy. On the flip side, free zone holding companies operate with more flexibility and enjoy incentives such as tax exemptions and the ability to repatriate 100% of profits.

Setting up a holding company in the UAE is a great way to protect and manage your assets. It offers many benefits such as tax efficiency, lower risks, no specific share capital requirement, more flexibility, and greater distinction between the subsidiary companies. However, it’s wise to seek professional advice and carefully consider the specific requirements and implications before establishing a holding company in the UAE.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that setting up a holding company in the UAE requires you to comply with certain legal and regulatory requirements. These include obtaining the necessary licences and permits, meeting minimum capital requirements, and sticking to corporate governance standards. A holding company must have a management board with multiple authorised employees who will make managerial and top-level decisions on how the offshore company and subsidiaries will run.

Process of Setting up a Holding Company in UAE

Establishing a holding company in Dubai, a city within the UAE, is a compelling option for many international investors. The procedure, while designed for ease, necessitates a thorough understanding of local customs and regulations.

However, setting up a holding company, particularly in the UAE, has challenges. It involves several steps, including registering with the state, providing a unique business name, appointing a managing agent, and filing articles of incorporation. There are also costs specific to this structure, such as registration and state fees, as well as the costs of maintaining the business of the Dubai holding company and its subsidiaries.

The initial step is to determine the kind of holding company you wish to form. You can choose between an onshore holding company, a mainland holding company, and a free zone holding company.

After deciding, the subsequent step is to select an appropriate location. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a prominent financial hub in the region for holding companies due to its robust infrastructure and strategic positioning.

The next phase involves:

  • The formation of a new business entity.
  • Filing the necessary paperwork.
  • Obtaining required licences and permits.
  • Drafting bylaws.
  • Issuing shares or membership interests.
  • Acquiring the stock or membership interests of other companies.

This process can be intricate, so it’s advisable to engage business consultants with expertise in establishing holding companies in Dubai.

A crucial requirement for a holding company in Dubai is the formation of a management board. This board is tasked with supervising the activities of subsidiaries, ensuring they have the necessary capital, setting limits on risks, deciding terms of arrangements and contracts, and appointing directors in each subsidiary.

It’s also important to note that there are no specific share capital requirements for opening a holding company in Dubai, and the company can be registered in a few weeks. However, it’s suggested to have legal written agreements to safeguard your business in legal disputes.

With the right guidance and support, establishing a holding company in Dubai can be a rewarding venture that offers significant benefits.

Cost of a Holding Company

Some of the costs associated with your holding company formation in UAE include:

  • Initial approval: AED 120
  • Trade name registration: AED 600
  • Licence application: AED 600
  • Business Center Fees: AED 25,000 (if applicable)

In addition, you will also have to pay the free zone fees, which differ based on the free zone you choose. Ideally, free zone licensing fees start from AED 15,000.

The above costs do not include business consultation and various administrative costs like drafting the Memorandum of Association that might incur during the process. A holding company formation may cost you approximately AED 20,000 or more, including rental, administrative, and consultation costs.

What Determines The Cost of a Holding Company?

The financial implications of initiating a holding company in Dubai can fluctuate based on several determinants.

Primarily, the category of holding company you aim to establish will affect the expenditure. In Dubai, you can opt for a Public Joint Stock Company (PJSC) holding company or a Free Zone LLC holding company. Each category has unique regulations and prerequisites, which can influence the total expenditure.

The geographical positioning of your holding company also contributes to the cost. For instance, the DIFC, a renowned financial hub, offers numerous advantages for holding companies, such as foreign ownership, tax incentives, regulatory assurance, and strategic positioning. However, these advantages are accompanied by certain costs, including licence fees, name reservation fees, incorporation fees, data protection fees, and office space expenses.

The scale of the commercial business of your holding company is another determinant. Larger entities may face higher costs due to increased activity fees and licensing fees. Additionally, the cost of leasing premises can also contribute to the overall expense of initiating a holding company in Dubai.

Despite these expenditures, the numerous advantages of initiating a holding company in Dubai should be noticed. These include tax efficiency, risk mitigation, the ability to own property, and the absence of any share capital requirement in certain free zones. Furthermore, holding companies in the UAE enjoy asset protection, simplified control, and the ability to consolidate investments under a common umbrella for ease of management and reporting.

To ensure a smooth and cost-effective process, it’s recommended to collaborate with company formation specialists. They can assist with selecting a company name, registering the company, and adhering to company law requirements, all of which help streamline the process and potentially reduce costs.

Final Thoughts on UAE Holding Companies

The world of UAE holding companies might seem intimidating at first. Still, once you get to know the core concepts and benefits, you’ll see a world of financial opportunities opening up for you.

The UAE’s versatile legal structure and robust tax advantages make it an attractive landscape for international investors like you looking to make foreign investments or establish a holding company.

But remember, any significant business decision requires careful research and professional advice. With careful planning, strategic decision-making, and a comprehensive understanding of the landscape, a UAE holding company can become a powerful tool for assembling, managing, and growing your business assets and investments.

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