2018 proved to be another hugely successful year for free zones in UAE, with a number of success stories highlighting the continued growth in the region. The Ministry of Economy have revealed some end-of-year statistics that show up to 540,359 business activity licences were issued by the end of 2018. Compared to August of last year, this is a rise of 1.6%.

According to the Central Bank of the UAE, GDP is set to hit 2.4%, which would be the highest since 2016. This further cements the positive outlook currently being enjoyed right across the region, with the past twelve months setting the stage for what will hopefully be an even more successful 2019.

Free zones continue to flourish across the UAE

Looking at the figures in more detail, we can see that Dubai and Abu Dhabi registered the largest amount of companies, reaching a total of 379,675. This accounts for 70.2% of the total amount of licences issued across the 12 months of 2018. The ministry also provided further detail of how this figure was comprised, with Dubai issuing 253,580 licenses and Abu Dhabi 126,095.

In Abu Dhabi there were 79,458 individual institutions registered by the end of December 2018. This is in addition to 17,639 branches for Gulf-based companies and 26,050 limited liability companies. The remaining licenses were spread across public and private joint stock and individual businesses based in Dubai.

The largest recipients of issued licences were limited liability companies with a total of 173,313. Individual institutions received 73,271, with one-person companies being issued 2,711 business licences.

In terms of foreign companies, there was a total of 2,146 licences handed out, while 894 branches for Gulf companies were also registered. The remaining number of licenses were taken up by public and private joint stock businesses.

Meanwhile, in Sharjah, a further 81,235 businesses were registered by the close of 2018. Compared to August of the same year, this is a rise of 481 companies. 23,284 of these were limited liability firms and 52,249 were noted as individual institutions. The remaining number was comprised of various different types of businesses.