UAE introduces new beneficial ownership regulations

The UAE has introduced new rules for corporate entities incorporated in the mainland and in the non-financial free zones to keep registers of their real beneficial owners and shareholders.

Companies subject to the new rules must file beneficial ownership information with the relevant registrar by 27 October 2020.


The UAE’s definition of a real beneficial owner is a person who owns or controls at least 25 per cent of a company’s shares whether through a direct or indirect chain of ownership or control or any natural person who has the right to appoint or dismiss the majority of the directors of the company.

If no such person meets those criteria or if there are doubts as to the identity of the beneficial owner, the beneficial owner is the person who manages or administers the company.

If none of those criteria can be met, the beneficial owner is the person who is the senior manager of the company.

Nominee directors

Companies must also keep a register of nominee directors under the new rules.

This new concept requires a company to maintain a register of any director or manager who acts in accordance with the guidelines, instructions or will of another person.

Scope and confidentiality

State-owned companies and firms operating in the UAE’s two financial free zones – Abu Dhabi Global Market and Dubai International Financial Centre – are exempt from the new rules.

Information contained within the companies register will be kept confidential by the Ministry of Economy and registrar and no plans for a public register have been mooted so far.

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