Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), one of the world's best-known property consultancies, is dramatically downsizing its Dubai operation and expanding in Bahrain and Qatar.
The slowdown in the UAE property market, combined with the number of firms vying for local business, has been difficult to overcome, said Mike Atwell, the head of C&W's Middle East operations.
"The market was very competitive," Mr Atwell said. "We were not big enough to compete with the larger firms."
C&W opened its Dubai office in September 2008, months before the start of the downturn. At its peak, the office grew to more than 10 employees focusing on services for the commercial property industry.
But new development has slowed in Dubai, making it difficult for C&W to find new clients.
David Quinn, C&W's head of agency in the UAE, left the company in August to join Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.
C&W will keep a small presence in Dubai, Mr Atwell said. But its regional focus will shift to Bahrain and Qatar.
"We're expanding into markets where we see good opportunities," Mr Atwell said.
He has already moved his base to Manama, where C&W opened an office in February, days before the political turmoil affecting parts of North Africa and the Middle East reached Bahrain.
Other consultancies have also been adjusting, with office rents in Dubai falling by more than 40 per cent in the past year as a result. The vacancy rate in Dubai office space was 44 per cent at the end of the third quarter, according to Jones Lang LaSalle.
Many companies are focusing on property management, research and tenant representation to compensate for a lack of sales and new construction.
"Our overall [employee] headcount in the UAE is approximately the same size as two years ago but has changed in constitution," said Nicholas Maclean, the managing director of the Middle East for CB Richard Ellis.
CBRE is recruiting for its three GCC offices with the "strongest headcount growth likely in Abu Dhabi", Mr Maclean said.