How to set up a business in Abu Dhabi Global market

How to set up a business in Abu Dhabi Global market

- Jade Wong

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is the international financial centre and financial free zone situated on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi. ADGM began operating in 2015 as a small freezone area and has subsequently grown to become one of the world’s most advanced financial hubs, attracting businesses from around the world, looking to establish a presence in the MENA region.

Recognised for its common law framework, court system, excellent infrastructure and tax-friendly policies, it is an ideal location for financial and non-financial businesses alike to establish and thrive.


ADGM operates under its own independent judicial system and legislative infrastructure. It is managed by three independent authorities. The Registration Authority (RA), the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) and the ADGM courts.

Its legislative and regulatory regime draws from internationally recognised standards and best practices in other jurisdictions around the world such as Hong Kong, London and Singapore.

What type of businesses can be set up in ADGM?

The types of businesses that can be established in ADGM can be broadly divided into 4 categories:

• Financial businesses

• Non-financial businesses

• Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs)

• Retail

The majority of businesses operating out of ADGM are financial service providers. These include companies in sectors such as banking, capital markets, fintech and wealth and asset management. The non-financial businesses are comprised of corporate headquarters, corporate treasuries, family offices and foundations, professional services, tech start-ups and associations.

Next are the SPVs, which are represented by a broad range of business types and industry sectors. They are generally subsidiaries of large corporations that are used as passive holding companies to isolate certain assets and liabilities in order mitigate financial and legal risk.

Finally, the retail businesses in ADGM operate from La Galleria Mall which includes hundreds of restaurants, F&B outlets, retail brands and other service-based businesses.

Why set up a business in ADGM

There are numerous benefits to incorporating a business in ADGM, whether that be a bank, financial advisory firm, law firm or any other professional services provider.

One of the primary reasons is to establish a presence in the MENA market and to be closer to regional clients and business.

Another of the primary benefits is the favourable tax environment that the UAE and ADGM provides. The UAE has a large network of double taxation treaties, with agreements in place with 90 countries and a further 39 under negotiation. This protects against the risk of double taxation and provides a more transparent environment for cross border trade.

These, as well as other notable benefits such as 0% corporate and income tax, no foreign ownership restrictions, no limits on repatriation of profits and no withholding taxes create a strong case for considering business setup in ADGM.

What is the process for setting up a business in ADGM?

There are a variety of available corporate structures which can be established in ADGM. You can incorporate a limited or unlimited company or a branch office for a company incorporated elsewhere in the UAE or abroad. You can also establish a passive holding company such as an SPV, a cell company or an investment company.

Below is a list of all the available legal entity types that can be incorporated in ADGM:

• Public Company Limited by Shares

• Private Company Limited by Shares

• Private Company Limited by Guarantee

• Restricted Scope Company

• Private Company Unlimited with Shares

• Private Company Unlimited without Shares

• Branch of Foreign Company

• Limited Liability Partnership

• General partnership

• Limited Partnership

• Branch of Foreign Limited Liability Partnership

• Branch of Foreign Partnership

• Branch of Foreign Limited Partnership

• Protected Cell Company

• Incorporated Cell Company

• Incorporated Cell

• Investment Company

For more information on how to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company in ADGM please click this link for more information.

Irrespective of the company type that you choose, your application can be processed online via ADGMs online registry. The procedure will differ greatly depending on the type of business that you are incorporating and the licences and visas which are required. However, the following is a brief overview:

• The first step is to select the nature of your business and the legal structure required. At this stage you will need to speak with ADGM to discuss your requirements and gain initial approval. Alternatively the Team at PRO Partner Group can assist you here to do the research and liaise with ADGM regulatory authority on your behalf.

• Once approval has been granted, you will then need to complete the online registration form with all required accompanying documents.

• After this information has been reviewed and accepted, you will be issued with your commercial licence.

• The final step is to apply for eChannel and the company immigration establishment card to proceed with the processing of visas

What are the required documents for registration and incorporation?

To incorporate in ADGM, the following documents will be required:

• Articles of Association

• Resolutions

• Nominee Arrangement Forms

• Completed Economic Substance Information Form

• ID Documents for Directors and Authorised Signatories

• Source of Wealth of Individual Shareholders (can be bank statements)

All application forms and document templates can be found on the ADGM website.

How much does it cost to set up in ADGM?

The cost of registering a financial business is $15,000 and breaks down as follows:

• Name reservation - $200

• Application for company registration - $1,500

• Commercial licence - $4,000

• Business activity fee - $9,000

• Data protection - $300

For a non-financial business, the cost is $10,300 which consists of:

• Business application - $300

• Name reservation - $200

• Application for company registration - $1,500

• Commercial licence - $4,000

• Business activity fee - $4,000

• Data protection - $300

For a retail business, the price is $6,000, broken down as follows:

• Name reservation - $200

• Application for company registration - $1,500

• Commercial licence - $4,000

• Data protection - $300

For financial and retail businesses, the cost for the business application is waived and for retail businesses the business activity fee is also waived.

How can PRO Partner Group help?

PRO Partner Group can help you choose the best legal structure, activity and location for your company formation in ADGM, and we can guide you through the whole setup process, liaising with ADGM and other government departments on your behalf to ensure that you are fully compliant with all legal requirements, and set up in the correct way to allow you to do business correctly and to hire staff and grow.

If you need assistance with setting up a business in ADGM or any other related onshore or offshore company setup, restructuring, local partner or PRO support matter in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, then please do get in touch with us on +971 (0)4 456 1761 for Dubai or +971 (0)2 448 5120 for Abu Dhabi, email us at or complete the contact form below and we will be delighted to assist you.

Get in touch with Jade Wong

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