UAE: UAE’s President has issued amendments to the country’s Commercial Companies Law (Federal Law No. 2/2015)
The UAE’s President has issued amendments to the country’s Commercial Companies Law (Federal Law No. 2/2015). Under the amendments, Federal Decree-Law No. 19/2018 will be repealed and the requirement for onshore companies to have a major UAE shareholder will be removed. The removal of the major UAE shareholder requirement is aimed at helping companies reduce overhead costs, make it easier for foreign investors in the country to do business and enable them to operate more flexibly.
In addition to that, the requirement for a UAE national or UAE owned company to be appointed as an agent will be abolished. Requirements for a company chair to be an Emirati and the board of directors to have an Emirati majority will also be repealed. They mean companies will be able to be fully established by non-Emiratis regardless of nationality.
Under other changes, joint stock and limited liability company provisions will be amended. Among other changes, the chair or senior executives of a company will be able to be removed if they are found guilty of fraud or abuse of authority. Shareholders will also now be able to sue a company in civil law for any failures of duty which cause damage. In addition, electronic voting at annual general meetings will be allowed.
There are also amendments aimed at boosting local capital market liquidity by amending the rules for companies wanting to go public. A company wanting to go public will have to have the approval of the relevant authorities and will be able to sell up to 70% of the company instead of the existing 30%.
The amendments will also allow local authorities to continue determining the level of participation by Emiratis in any company. Companies in strategic sectors, like oil and gas exploration, utilities and transport and State-owned entities will be exempt from the amendments. In terms of capital increases or decreases in public companies, a company will be able to approve its capital increase by issuing bonds and converting them into shares.
The Securities and Commodities Authority will be able to establish the controls and procedures required for evaluating in-kind shares and the names of stakeholders attending the general assembly meetings of companies.
Under the new Article 10 to Federal Law No. 2/2015, a committee including representatives of the relevant authorities will oversee activities which have a strategic impact and the measures required to license companies operating in these areas. Following the recommendation of the committee, the Cabinet will state which activities will be considered to have a strategic impact and the measures to enable these companies to be licensed.
Affected companies will have one year to comply from when the amendments come into force. However, this may be extended by an appropriate Ministerial Decision proposed by the Economy Minister.
While most of the amendments come into force next month, the changes related to foreign ownership, agency and boards of directors will come into force six months after they are published in the Official Gazette.