x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

DIFC looks to Brazil and Asia for business

The DIFC is looking to bring in a new wave of companies, pitching itself as a regional base for emerging-market firms.

Dubai International Financial Centre is reaching out to new markets in Asia and South America in a bid to attract businesses to the hub.

Top officials at the government-owned free zone, known as the DIFC, visited India last month, and this month undertook a marketing trip to Brazil and the US.

They are planning to travel to China, South Korea, Malaysia and Brunei later this month to meet prospective clients.

Companies in the US and Brazil responded favourably, said the DIFC chief executive Abdulla al Awar.

They were interested, Mr al Awar said, "in capturing the next wave of growth in emerging markets using DIFC as a vantage point to access business opportunities in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia".

The marketing push is part of the DIFC's response to the financial crisis and a shift in economic prowess from developed western markets towards the emerging world.

The centre, which was founded in 2004, signed up scores of big banks and financial companies in its early years to occupy offices within the zone.

As it looks to grow an already long list of about 800 tenants, the DIFC is still targeting firms in the US and Europe, but the focus now is increasingly on attracting companies from faster-growing markets.

Last year, about half of the new registrations came from North America and Europe, while 45 per cent came from the Middle East and Asia, a fact that Marwan Lutfi, the deputy chief executive and head of business development at the DIFC, said was confirmation the organisation was already "a global financial hub connecting East and West".

Mr Lutfi said future marketing efforts would build on that theme.

DIFC executives appear especially keen to have Brazilian companies set up in the centre. During their visit to Brazil, officials went to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and met representatives in the agriculture, energy, food and financial sectors.

They also met officials from the Brazilian Stock Exchange, the DIFC said.

That drive comes as trade between Brazil and the Middle East is in a growth spurt.

According to the DIFC, imports to the Middle East from Brazil reached US$870 million (Dh3.19 billion) in March, 35.5 per cent more than March last year.

UAE government ministers held talks last week with Brazilian officials about improving investment and trade flows between the two countries.

Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, is also looking at new investments in Brazil after a visit by executives this month.