United Arab Emirates
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are a key component of the UAE economic model. There is no
published list of SOEs or GREs, at the national or individual emirate level. Some SOEs, such as the influential Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), are strategically important companies and provide a major source of revenue for the government. Mubadala established Masdar in 2006 to develop renewable energy and sustainable technologies industries. Some SOEs, such as Emirates Airlines and Etisalat, the largest local telecommunications firm, have in recent years emerged as internationally recognized brands. Some, but not all, of these companies have competition. In some cases, these firms compete against other state-owned firms (Emirates and Etihad airlines, for example, or telecommunications company Etisalat against du). While they are not granted full autonomy, these firms leverage ties between entities they control to foster national economic development. Perhaps the best example of such an economic ecosystem is Dubai, where SOEs have been used as drivers of diversification in sectors including construction, hospitality, transport, banking, logistics, and telecommunications. Sectoral regulations in some cases address governance structures and practices of state-owned companies. The UAE is not party to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement.
There is no privatization program in the UAE. There have been several listings of portions of SOEs, on local UAE stock exchanges, as well as some “greenfield” IPOs focused on priority projects. However, several state-owned enterprises have allowed partial foreign ownership in their shares. For example, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for Distribution, many national banks, some utility operators and the telecom operators, Etisalat and du, now allow minority foreign ownership.