Dubai International Financial Centre achieves record company registrations in 2021
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Dubai International Financial Centre achieves record company registrations in 2021

Dubai International Financial Centre achieves record company registrations in 2021

Last year, the financial centre also recorded its highest ever annual revenue and operating profit

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) recorded 996 company registrations in 2021, the highest ever in a single year since its inception 17 years ago.

The company registrations were up 36 per cent year-on-year.

DIFC said on Wednesday that it had achieved its 2024 strategy growth targets three years ahead of schedule during the first half of 2021.

The total number of active registered firms operating in DIFC increased by 25 per cent to 3,644 entities last year from 2,919 in 2020. A total of 1,124 financial and innovation related entities are now actively operating within DIFC, up 23 per cent over 915 entities in 2020.

In 2021, DIFC also recorded its highest ever annual revenue and operating profit. Revenue increased by 16 per cent to Dhs897m year-on-year against Dhs774m in 2020 and up 7 per cent compared to Dhs838m in 2019, which was before the economic impact of the pandemic was felt across the world.

Operating profit for 2021 reached Dhs573m, an increase of 26 per cent versus Dhs457m in 2020 and up by 13 per cent compared to Dhs510m in 2019. For the first time ever, its total assets crossed Dhs14.80bn.

In the past year, an additional 350,000 sqft of commercial space was leased across DIFC versus 201,900 sqft in the previous year, marking a 73 per cent increase.

Total banking assets booked in DIFC increased to $198.5bn, up 5 per cent from $189.4bn in 2020, representing about 20 per cent of consolidated UAE financial sector banking assets.

An additional $108.1bn of lending was also arranged by DIFC firms, a 69 per cent increase from $64bn in 2020. DIFC based wealth and asset management portfolio managers invested $151.4bn in 2021 compared to $145.6bn in 2020. Gross written premiums for the insurance sector reached $1.8bn, rising from $1.7bn in 2020.

Amongst the 3,644 entities operating with DIFC, many new clients came from the fintech and innovation sectors. In 2021, these increased to 503 from 303 in 2020.

Firms joining DIFC in 2021 included Air Liquide Middle East & India Holding Limited, BentallGreenOak Advisors (UK) LLP, DP World Financial Services, Dual Corporate Risks Limited, General Reinsurance AG, Howden Insurance Brokers Limited, Hines, Mamopay, Richemont and Thunderbird Global Innovation Center.

As part of the DIFC’s Strategy 2030, last year saw the launch of the DIFC Innovation Hub. DIFC said that it will nearly triple the size of the hub to 315,000 sqft by the end of 2023. More than 500 technology and innovation firms are now based in DIFC, representing over 60 per cent of all those across the GCC.

Read: New DIFC Innovation Hub to spur fintech ecosystem in Dubai

Last year, a Dhs1bn venture capital fund was also launched by DIFC and Dubai Future Foundation to anchor Dubai as a global startup and venture capital hub.

Meanwhile, startups that were previously part of the DIFC FinTech Hive’s accelerator programme have collectively raised over $530m, an increase of 76 per cent from last year. Employment at DIFC grew by 11 per cent to 29,700, with a net increase of around 3,000 employees, the highest net growth in over a decade.

In 2021, the Innovation Hub One Building project was approved by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and President of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The project is currently under construction and will be an extension of the existing DIFC Innovation Hub at Gate Avenue. The 315,000 sqft hub will accommodate 1,000 startups and 3,000 employees by 2023.

The financial centre is also gaining recognition as a leisure community. There were 367 retail and dining outlets in DIFC, of which 80 were newly opened in 2021.

Essa Kazim, governor of DIFC, said: “Dubai’s economy rebounded more quickly than many global economies following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. DIFC has helped drive this new phase of growth and we are proud to be a significant contributor to Dubai’s GDP. Our focus in 2022 will be on driving the future economy by attracting more financial sector investment into the UAE.”

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