Dubai hits target in wealth management ambitions

The bright lights of Dubai are attracting some of the biggest names in global finance. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Dubai hits target in wealth management ambitions

  • Dubai is fast becoming a global center for wealth management, according to new figures from the emirate’s financial hub.
  • Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC

The Dubai International Financial Center on Sunday announced it had passed a landmark of 200 firms in the fast-growing wealth and asset management sector that had chosen to be based in the center, a rise of 6 percent from the halfway point last year. Some 13 of the top 25 firms in the wealth management sector are included in that total.

The number of financial funds under management by DIFC entities has leapt by 240 percent in the same period, from 25 to the latest figure of 60, making it the largest funds domicile in the region, the DIFC said. 

Arif Amiri, chief executive of DIFC, said: “The wealth and asset management sector is a cornerstone of a thriving financial services industry, and as the DIFC has developed into a top global financial center, it has become one of our hallmarks. Major financial institutions see Dubai and the DIFC as a preferred platform to access investment opportunities and sources of investment across regional and global markets.

“To date, the center has seen consistent and significant growth in this field, reflecting the industry’s ongoing confidence in Dubai and the DIFC. We expect to see this growth continue as we introduce new regulations to our attractive legislative and business environment in line with our ambitious 2024 Strategy. Our flexible structures, which also benefit private wealth management and family trusts, continue to give us the edge,” he added.

The DIFC is committed to a ten-year strategy of trebling in size by 2024 in terms of the number of member firms and employees as well as the value of assets under management.

In the first half of 2018, the DIFC attracted three of the biggest names in global finance, Chinese firm Everbright Group and American giants State Street Global Advisers and Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

 

 Last month, Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC.

“These companies benefit from three types of fund structures, as well as tried-and-tested special-purpose companies and insurance special-purpose vehicles, used in structured financing transactions or related to entities of substance. The DIFC’s international-standard regulatory framework and flexible business environment are already paying dividends to global and regional companies within the Center’s community,” the center said.

In total, the DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.

That period coincided with the decline of Abraaj Capital, the private equity fund manager that has been at the heart of the DIFC since it opened in 2004, but which was ultimately owned by a Cayman Islands holding company.

Financial and legal experts believe there will be no significant damage to Dubai from the Abraaj affair. Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s leading corporate lawyers, told Arab News recently: “I don’t believe Dubai’s reputation has been damaged. The DIFC entity is not involved. There are various Abraaj entities which are subject of different jurisdictions.”

Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of market research group Insight Discovery, which specializes in wealth and asset management sectors, said: “In the past quarter our company has received more requests than ever to support asset management companies within the DIFC.

“The recent woes at Abraaj did make us think that business might slow down but so far we haven’t seen any impact.” 

The center enacted two new laws in March: The trust law, which provides an appropriate environment for the operation of trusts in the DIFC, and the foundations law, a new regime to provide greater certainty and flexibility for private wealth management and charitable institutions.

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The DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.


France unveils major tax cuts as growth flags

Updated 24 September 2018
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France unveils major tax cuts as growth flags

  • Critics say most people have been left behind by President Emmanuel Macron’s policies so far
  • Patience is wearing thin for many as unemployment has barely budged since Macron’s election in May 2017

PARIS: The French government on Monday unveiled billions of euros in tax relief for businesses alongside further budget cuts, as President Emmanuel Macron struggles to deliver more jobs and higher growth as promised.
The former investment banker’s poll ratings have dived in recent weeks as growth has slowed despite a series of reforms presented as unavoidable shock treatment for getting France on solid financial footing.
Critics say most people have been left behind by Macron’s policies so far, which have seen him raise taxes on retirees while cutting a wealth tax on top earners.
Pensions and welfare benefits will be shaved further in the 2019 budget — Macron complained in June that France spends “a crazy amount of dough” on social programs.
And 4,100 more public sector jobs will be axed as Macron aims for a deficit of 2.8 percent of GDP, below the 3 percent limit set for EU members.
Higher taxes on fuel and cigarettes will also hit consumers next year.
But the government says the pillar of the 2019 budget will be a combined €20 billion ($23.5 billion) of tax cuts for businesses and six billion euros in tax relief for households, including a gradual end to an annual housing tax.
“The long-term goal is to build a new French prosperity that will benefit all French people in all regions,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said as he presented the budget in Paris.
But he acknowledged that results from Macron’s reform drive so far “are unsatisfactory compared with our European neighbors, and we certainly don’t intend to stop here.”
“We’re doing less well than our European partners on unemployment, growth, the deficit and debt,” Le Maire said.
Patience is wearing thin for many as unemployment has barely budged since Macron’s election in May 2017, standing at 9.1 percent.
The 40-year-old centrist captured the presidency with a pledge to shake up an economy he says is held back by excessive regulations and rigid labor laws.
But growth has been slowing and is now widely expected to reach just 1.6 percent this year, and the government is forecasting an uptick to just 1.7 percent next year.
A poll released Sunday found just 29 percent satisfied with Macron’s leadership, while a separate survey last week said only 19 percent of French people held a positive view of his record.
He has promised to balance the budget in France for the first time in more than 40 years by the end of his term in 2022 — a task that will require an overhaul of state spending.
That has led him to take on France’s powerful labor unions to a degree not seen in decades, overcoming stiff resistance to new laws making it easier to fire people and ending the privileged status of rail workers.
He has also promised to cut 120,000 public sector jobs by the end of his term in 2022, a daunting prospect in a country known for its expansive bureaucracy which guarantees civil servants jobs for life.
Yet Macron has appeared to be dismissive of the concerns of everyday voters, most recently telling an unemployed gardener to go get a job in a restaurant or construction instead.
His reformist zeal has also exposed him to criticism that his policies favor businesses in particular, and he has struggled to shake off perceptions that he is “president of the rich.”
The vow to cut social spending is unlikely to reassure the lowest earners in France, where the number of people living below the poverty line has swelled to 14 percent of the population, according to national statistics office INSEE.