The Republic of Malta is a small, strategically located country 60 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles north of Libya, astride some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. A politically stable parliamentary republic with a free press, Malta is considered a safe, secure, and welcoming environment for American investors to do business.
Malta joined the European Union in 2004, the Schengen visa system in 2007, and the Eurozone in 2008. With a population of about 493,500 and a total area of only 122 square miles, it is the EU’s smallest country in geographic size. The economy is based on services, primarily shipping, banking, and financial services, professional, scientific, and technical activities, online gaming, and tourism. Manufacturing also plays a small but important role. Maltese and English are the official languages.
Given its central location in one of the world’s busiest trading regions, as well as its relatively small economy, Malta recognizes the important contribution that international trade and investment can provide to the generation of national wealth.
Malta registered GDP growth rate was one of the fastest within the European Union over the past decade. In 2019, real GDP growth reached the high rate of 4.4 percent. Malta’s unemployment rate stood at 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. Thanks to its robust economic growth for much of the years in the last decade, the country is facing the current crises brought about by COVID-19 from a position of economic and fiscal strength.
The top three credit rating agencies rank Malta extremely well and predict the economic impact of the coronavirus will be less pronounced on the Maltese economy when compared to other EU neighboring countries. The current sovereign credit ratings are A-/A-2 with a stable outlook (S&P); A2 with a stable outlook (Moody’s); and A+ with a stable outlook (Fitch).
In 2013, the Government of Malta established the Individual Investor Program (IIP), which provides citizenship by naturalization to people (and their dependents) who are contributors to an individual investor program and who pay a fee of EUR 650,000 (with an additional EUR 25,000 for spouses or dependents under age 18 or EUR 50,000 for dependents over age 18). IIP conditions include a EUR 350,000 minimum for purchasing immovable property, or a EUR 16,000 per year minimum for leasing immovable property (which must be retained for at least five years), and a EUR 150,000 minimum for investment in stocks, bonds, or debentures.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Malta seeks foreign direct investment (FDI) to increase its rate of economic growth. Malta provides incentives to attract investment in high-tech manufacturing (including plastics, precision engineering, electronic components, automotive components, and health technologies such as pharmaceuticals manufacturing and biotechnology), information and communications technology (ICT), research and development (R&D), aerospace and aviation maintenance, education and training, registration of ships and aircrafts, transshipment and related service industries, finance services, and digital technologies, including artificial intelligence technologies, blockchain, innovative technologies, and digital gaming.
Malta’s comparative advantages include membership in the EU, Eurozone, and Schengen Zone; proximity to European and North African markets; excellent telecommunications and transport connections; a fair and transparent business environment; a highly skilled, English-speaking labor force; and competitive wage rates (though the cost of living is high, labor costs are relatively low compared with other EU countries). Malta also offers financial, tax, and other investment incentives to attract FDI. Foreign investment plays an integral part in the Government of Malta’s policies to reduce the role of the state in the economy and increase private sector activity. It will also play a key role in building Malta’s economic recovery post-pandemic as the country is in the process of shaping an economic strategy based on tangible niche market opportunities that will help it recover in the new economic and health conditions.
Malta Enterprise, a government organization that promotes FDI in Malta, provides information to prospective investors, processes applications for government investment incentives, and serves as a liaison between investors and other government entities. The organization offers an attractive investment package for U.S. and other investors.
There are currently no legal prohibitions against FDI-oriented sales in Malta’s domestic market; however, the country is in the process of setting up an FDI screening mechanism in line EU regulation 2019/452 establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments into the Union. The government seeks, as a top priority, companies operating in the following fields:
High-end manufacturing (although virtually all manufacturing sectors are open to FDI);
Information and communications technology, including electronic components, and digital gaming;
Health technologies, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and emerging medical sectors (including medical cannabis);
Back office and regional support operations;
Digital Technologies including blockchain, artificial intelligence, innovative technologies, e-sports, and fintech;
Knowledge-based service, including aerospace and defense (aviation maintenance), education and training, and research and development;
Logistics-based services, including marine technology, warehousing, and oil/gas services; and
Film industry (Malta has one of the few sets in the world for water/boating scenes).
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Private foreign investors are free to make equity arrangements as they wish, from joint ventures to full equity ownership.
The Government of Malta recognizes the right to private ownership in theory and in practice. Private entities are free to establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. Many U.S. firms sell their products or services in Malta through licensing, franchise, or similar arrangements. The government generally allows foreign companies to operate in merchandising areas, especially if they operate a licensing, franchising, or similar agreement through a local representative.
It is the government’s stated policy not to allow public enterprises to operate at the expense of private entities. Some sectors, such as electricity generation, are also open to private sector participation. The government provides private enterprises with the same opportunities as public enterprises for access to markets and other business operations.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The Government of Malta has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews through a multilateral organization in the last three years.
The Maltese Commercial Code provides for the establishment of several types of business entities according to the needs of an individual investor when setting up a company in Malta. The following are the available structures:
Private limited liability companies;
Public limited liability companies;
General partnerships; and
Foreign companies can also open subsidiaries or branch offices in Malta.
When setting up a Maltese private company, the minimum share capital amount accepted is EUR 1,165 ($1,300). The minimum for a public company is approximately EUR 46,600 ($51,670), of which 25 percent must be deposited prior to registration. In case of private companies with an authorized share capital exceeding the minimum requirements, only 20 percent of the amount must be deposited.
The maximum number of shareholders for limited liabilities companies is 50 and minimum is two (although a single-member company may also be registered under the Companies Act).
The following are the main steps required to set up a company in Malta:
Reserve a company name with the Maltese Business Registry;
Draft the company’s memorandum and articles of association;
Deposit the minimum share capital; and
File the application with the Malta Business Registry.
The documents to be filed with the Malta Registrar of Companies are:
The memorandum and articles of association;
A confirmation of the company name reservation;
The bank receipt confirming the share capital deposit; and
Passport copies of the shareholders, directors, and company secretary.
The Malta Business Registry (MBR), is responsible for the registration of new commercial partnerships, the registration of documents related to commercial partnership, the issuing of certified documentation including certificates of good-standing amongst others, the reservation of company names, the collection of registration and other fees, the publication of notices, and the imposition and collection of penalties. The Registry also conducts investigations of companies and maintains the company and partnership register.
The Memorandum must be presented to the MBR, which offers an online system allowing users to register a company and submit commonly used forms (including a bank receipt as proof of payment of the initial share capital). All the statutory forms and notices are available on the website free of charge. The MBR may also request that due diligence on the directors, shareholders, and/or beneficial owners be provided before proceeding with the incorporation. Upon incorporation, companies must pay a registration fee payable to the MBR according to the amount of share capital held by the company.
Once all the requirements above are satisfied, the MBR will normally carry out incorporation of a company within two to three working days. Once incorporation is complete, the MBR will publish a Certificate of Incorporation that will also display the company registration number.
The Government of Malta also offers a one-stop shop for businesses – Business First – that assists companies with all processing of services and information to establish a company. Business First brings more than 50 essential services from various government departments and entities under one roof. It assists all enterprises based in Malta, including micro enterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), larger companies, and foreign investors wishing to set up in the country.
TradeMalta, incorporated in 2014, is a public-private partnership between the government and the Chamber of Commerce to help Malta-based enterprises internationalize. TradeMalta is also the national organization tasked with marketing and coordinating both incoming and outgoing trade missions, promoting participation in international trade fairs, facilitating bilateral trade meetings, and researching new market opportunities. Although TradeMalta promotes outward investment and incentives for companies to seek international business, it does not provide financial incentives to set up FDI in other jurisdictions. This quasi-governmental organization is also tasked with maintaining business relationships with countries with whom Malta has a trading activity and dedicates its resources to identifying new markets, which are not considered as traditional trading partners. (For the past three years, it has targeted African countries for outgoing trade missions.)
The organization provides specialized training programs in international business development and marketing, and administers incentive schemes and internationalization programs aimed at both novice and experienced exporters.
The government actively supports and promotes franchising, joint-ventures, and other forms of international business opportunities between Malta-based businesses and foreign companies.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
In 2010, the United States signed a bilateral taxation agreement with Malta. Malta also benefits from treaties with investment provisions with ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States), Albania, Algeria, ANCOM (Andean Community), Armenia, ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, CACM (Central American Common Market), Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, CARICOM (Caribbean Community), Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, EFTA (European Free Trade Association), Egypt, ESA (Eastern and Southern Africa), GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), Georgia, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Macao S.A.R., MERCOSUR (Mercado Común Sudamericano), Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, North Macedonia, OCT (Overseas Countries and Territories), Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, SADC (Southern African Development Community), Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen.
The United States has maintained a Commerce and Navigation Treaty with Malta since 1815, initially in its capacity as a British colony, and, upon Malta’s independence in 1964, on its own behalf. The primary aim of this agreement is to ensure non-discriminatory treatment for bilateral trade and investments. Malta has similar investor protection accords with Albania, Austria, Belgium/Luxembourg Economic Union, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Libya, Montenegro, Netherlands, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
There are currently no ongoing or upcoming changes to the taxation regime or ongoing systematic tax disputes between the government and foreign investors.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Malta has transparent and effective policies and regulations to foster competition. It has revised labor, safety, health, and other laws to conform to EU standards.
Stakeholder engagement is currently required for all subordinate regulations as part of the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) process as well as for some primary laws in selected policy areas. Each online consultation is accompanied by a feedback report, summarizing the views of participants and providing feedback on the comments received. According to OECD 2019 report on Indicators of Regulatory Policy and Governance, the transparency of the Maltese regulatory framework could be further strengthened by making RIAs available for consultations with stakeholders by systematically engaging with stakeholders during the development of primary laws, specifically at an early stage, before a preferred regulatory decision has been identified.
International Regulatory Considerations
Malta’s regulatory system is derived from the acquis communautaire, the body of laws, rights, and obligations that are binding on all EU member states. Consequently, trade and investment relations with third countries are an EU responsibility under the Common Commercial Policy. However, with respect to investment, Malta does have some competence in certain investment areas. In particular, where the EU does not have or is not negotiating an investment protection agreement, Malta can hold or negotiate one unilaterally. Malta also maintains competence in the areas of transport and portfolio investment, as well as corporate taxation. Malta is currently working on taking the necessary steps to implement the EU-wide mechanism for cooperation on investment as required by the new EU framework for investment screening which entered into force on April 10, 2019. The Malta draft bill still needs to be considered and passed in parliament.
Malta became a WTO member on January 1, 1995. However, all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade are now made at the EU level.
Malta ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement on October 5, 2015 and is in full compliance with its implementation commitments.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Malta’s Commercial Code regulates commercial activities and related legislation, such as the Banking Act, the Central Bank of Malta Act, and bankruptcy. In cases of bankruptcy, the court appoints a curator to liquidate the assets of the bankrupt company, organization, or individual, and distributes the proceeds among the creditors.
The Maltese judiciary is independent, and courts are divided into superior courts, presided over by judges, and inferior courts, presided over by magistrates. Inferior courts have jurisdiction over minor offenses of a criminal nature and small civil matters. The judiciary traditionally functions through the Criminal, Civil, and Constitutional courts. The First Hall of the Civil Court hears commercial cases. Malta has a Criminal Court of Appeal and a second Court of Appeal for all other matters. The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine questions and appeals on constitutional issues. There are also a number of administrative tribunals, such as the Industrial Tribunal, the Rent Regulation Board, the Sanction Monitoring Board, and the Board of Special Commissioners (for income tax purposes). Malta adopted the European Convention of Human Rights as part of its domestic law in 1987.
The Maltese judiciary has a long tradition of independence. Once appointed to the bench, judges and magistrates have fixed salaries that do not require annual approval. Judges cannot be dismissed, except by a two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives for proven misbehavior or the inability to exercise properly their function. The Maltese Constitution guarantees the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary and a fair trial. In December 2018, the European Commission for Democracy through Law, known as the Venice Commission, issued an opinion on the constitutional arrangements, separation of powers, and independence of the judiciary and law enforcement bodies of Malta. The Commission recommended setting up an office of an independent Director of Public Prosecutions with security of tenure, being responsible for all public prosecutions, subject to judicial review. The opinion also recommended abolishing the possibility that judges can be dismissed by Parliament and suggested modifications to the system of the judicial appointments. Malta is currently in the process of implementing changes in accordance with the Venice Commission recommendation and has thus far has achieved successfully separated the previous dual roles of the Attorney General as both the public prosecutor and the state attorney.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Several laws govern foreign investment in Malta. The Income Tax Act of 1948 (as amended in 1994) establishes a single rate of taxation of 35 percent on income for limited liability companies in Malta. In certain qualifying cases, this rate can fall to five percent through a system of tax refunds on dividends paid. The Business Promotion Act authorizes the Government of Malta to allocate fiscal and other incentives to companies engaged in manufacturing (including software development), repair, or maintenance activities. The Malta Enterprise Act of 2003 enables Malta Enterprise to develop and administer incentives and other forms of support to liberalize and update legislation relevant to FDI. The Companies Act of 1995 regulates the creation of limited liability companies. The Companies Act also provides for the establishment of investment companies with variable share capital (SICAVS) and companies with share capital denominated in a foreign currency. The Malta Financial Services Authority Act of 1989 established the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), which is responsible for the regulation of banking and investment services in Malta. The Investment Services Act of 1994 regulates investment services in the banking and insurance sectors. In 2018, Malta enacted three new acts related to blockchain. The Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act (MDIA) establishes the Authority that oversees and regulates innovative technologies, along with the Innovative Technology Arrangement and Services Act (ITAS) that regulates Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services, such as the software and coding used in digital ledger technology (DLT), smart contract, and related applications, together with the technical administration and review services. In 2018, the MFSA was entrusted with the Virtual Financial Assets Act (VFA) that regulates Initial Virtual Financial Assets Offerings and delineates their licensing requirements.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Malta is a free-trade, open-economy country. The government does not approve or restrict any FDI, so long as it complies with EU and national regulations. Malta Enterprise reviews FDI before granting any incentives to a private entity or business. A due diligence process is carried out prior to approving greenfield investments. The MFSA undertakes the filings and regulatory screenings on financial investments.
The Office for Competition, currently housed within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA), is the office tasked with protecting competition in Malta. The Maltese Competition Act is modelled on EU competition law. The latest amendments to the Competition Act in 2011 strengthened its deterrent effect by widening the decision-making powers of the Office for Competition and further aligned both the substantive and procedural rules with those existing under EU law.
In 2017, the Office for Competition reviewed plans for a merger between telecommunications companies Vodafone Malta and Melita. When the parties were unable to satisfy the MCCAA’s requirements, they terminated their plans to merge.
Expropriation and Compensation
The Government of Malta, in exceptional instances, expropriates private property for public purposes. In such cases, the government must take action in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of international law. Investors and lenders of expropriated property receive prompt, adequate, and effective compensation. In 1993, the government’s Property Division started accepting expropriation requests by public bodies only if the requests were accompanied by the compensation due to the landowners. In 2002, this practice was made law. As a result, the government may only expropriate private property if the presidential decree also includes a deposit for the compensation due. In recent years, the government has appropriated land mainly for the widening of roads; however, no particular sectors are at risk for expropriation or similar actions, and no laws force local ownership.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Malta signed the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 2002. Malta is also a member of the New York Convention of 1958 on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards (UNCITRAL).
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
There have been no significant investment disputes over the past few years involving U.S. or other foreign investors or contractors in Malta. In a limited number of cases, U.S. investors have identified difficulties in obtaining fair legal resolutions, especially in disputes with Maltese parties. Courts in Malta are slow in processing cases. Reforms to increase efficiency in the judicial system are part of an ongoing constitutional reform effort, including the recent progress Malta made on implementing the Venice Commission recommendations. In December 2019, the State Advocate Act came in effect, as part of the reform in the Maltese justiciary, which split the Attorney General’s (AG) dual government advisory and prosecutorial roles.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Malta honors the enforcement of foreign court judgments and foreign arbitration awards. Bilateral investment treaties, which Malta has with several countries (see section 3, Bilateral Investment Agreements), provide for the acceptable methods of settling disputes connected with citizens of those countries.
The Companies Act and the Commercial Code Bankruptcy in Malta and the Set-off and Netting on Insolvency Act of 2003 regulate bankruptcy. The latter provides for the set-off and netting due to each party with respect to mutual credits, mutual debts, or other mutual dealings that are enforceable whether before or after bankruptcy or insolvency.
The Maltese insolvency law regime distinguishes between bankruptcies of a person and bankruptcies of a commercial partnership other than a company. When a company cannot pay its debts, it may initiate insolvency proceedings. In such a case, the court examines carefully whether the financial situation of the company justifies its insolvency or whether it could remain operational and continue to pay its debts.
Any officer of a company who, in the twelve months prior to the deemed date of dissolution, concealed assets or documents, disposed of assets, or otherwise acted in a fraudulent manner may be criminally liable. Separately, courts may find any such officers civilly liable for such acts and require them to pay back to the company any moneys due. The law also provides for proceedings in cases of wrongful trading by directors and fraudulent trading by any officer of the company.
According to latest data collected by the World Bank Doing Business report, resolving insolvency in Malta generally takes three years and costs ten percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome requiring the sale of the company as a piecemeal sale. The average recovery rate is 39.2 cents on the dollar. Globally, Malta stands at 121 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.
The Malta Association of Credit Management, known as MACM, is a members-owned, not-for-profit organization, providing a central national organization for the promotion and protection of all credit interests pertaining to Maltese businesses. More information at: https://www.macm.org.mt/.
4. Industrial Policies
The Government of Malta offers several investment incentives to attract FDI. All investment incentives are specified by law and cannot be made available in an ad hoc manner. However, the way in which incentives are designed allows the opportunity to offer relatively tailor-made solutions, even though treatment of domestic and non-Maltese investors is identical. There are no stated requirements that a foreign investor should transfer technology, employ Maltese nationals, or reduce shareholding interest over time. These factors might, however, influence Malta Enterprise’s decision regarding a firm’s application for assistance. Malta Enterprise monitors compliance with any conditions set by the government as a condition of government assistance. Investors are not required to disclose proprietary information.
Investment Tax Credits: Companies in a targeted sector are entitled to a tax credit calculated as follows:
As a percentage of qualifying capital expenditure (currently granting 10 percent for a large enterprise, 20 percent for a medium enterprise, and 30 percent for a small to micro enterprise); or
As a percentage of the wage cost for the first 24 months of a newly created job (currently, 15 percent for a large enterprise; 25 percent for a medium enterprise, and 35 percent for a small and micro enterprise).
Access to Finance:
Soft Loans: Malta Enterprise supports enterprise though loans at low interest rates for partial financing of investments in qualifying expenditure.
Loan Guarantees: Malta Enterprise may guarantee bank loans taken by a company to finance acquisition of additional assets to be employed in the company’s business.
Loan Interest Subsidies: Malta Enterprise may subsidize the rate of interest payable on bank loans. Loan interest subsidies are not in addition to loan guarantees and applicable to loans provided by banks or other financial institutions.
Micro Guarantee Scheme: Malta Enterprise aims to accelerate the growth of enterprises by facilitating access to debt finance for smaller business undertakings.
Employment and Training: Malta’s employment corporation JobsPlus, formerly known as ETC, supports enterprises in recruiting new employees and training their staff.
SME Development: Incentives through the Micro Invest Scheme assist SMEs in investing, innovating and expanding, or developing their operations. The Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business can also facilitate access to newly developed crowd-funding platforms.
Enterprise Support: Malta Enterprise provides assistance to businesses to support development of international competitiveness, improve processes, and network with other businesses. Trade Malta, Malta’s export and trade promotion agency, offers support for trade promotion activities focused on exports.
Research and Development: Malta Enterprise offers incentives to support and encourage businesses to engage in industrial research and experimental development, including through the licensing of intellectual property rights.
The Government of Malta offers specific incentives for companies to engage in industrial research and development (see “Investment Incentives” section above). The government does not differentiate between U.S. or foreign firms and local firms regarding participation in incentive programs.
U.S. companies also can partner with local firms to participate in Horizon 2020, the EU Framework program for funding research and innovation. Horizon 2020 will run until the end of 2020 and has a budget of €80 billion.
COVID-19 measures: The government announced several measures as part of financial packages to help the Maltese economy during the COVID-19 outbreak. The financial aid packages mainly aimed to protect jobs and businesses by injecting liquidity into the market through measures including subsidies for partial payment of salaries, deferring certain tax deadlines, and guarantees allowing banks to continue offering loans, grant moratoria, and low interest rates for customers. It has also introduced schemes to encourage teleworking for companies and an RDI fund for COVID-19 related projects.
Other Tax Benefits: The Government of Malta offers generous incentives to trading and financial companies registered with the Malta Financial Services Authority. Legislative changes in 1994 removed the distinction between offshore and onshore companies, so all companies in Malta are subject to a 35 percent tax rate on profits. However, the fact that the Maltese tax system is a full imputation system – and the only one remaining in the EU – means that a tax paid by a company will essentially remain a prepaid tax on behalf of the tax liability of the shareholders. Shareholders then are entitled to claim a tax refund, which may be equivalent to roughly 85 percent (in the case of trading income) of the tax paid at the corporate level. Companies operating within the Malta Freeport, a customs-free zone, may also benefit from reduced rates of taxation and investment tax credits.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Malta’s Freeport container port offers modern transshipment facilities, storage, assembling and processing operations, as well as an oil terminal and bunkering facilities. Following a corporate restructuring from 1998 through 2001, Malta established a distinction between authority and operator of the Freeport. Malta Freeport Corporation Ltd. (“Malta Freeport Authority”) fulfils the role of landlord and authority, whereas Malta Freeport Terminals Ltd. (“Malta Freeport”) carries out the role of operator. Malta Freeport Terminals Ltd. is the single operating company of the warehousing facilities and two container terminals , handling container vessels at 20,000 TEU and larger. In October 2004, the Government of Malta granted a 30-year concession for operation and development of Malta Freeport Terminals CMA CGM, which transferred it half of shares in Malta Freeport Terminals Ltd. to the Yilidirim Group of Turkey in November 2011, and sold a 49% interest in port operator Terminal Link to China Merchant Holdings (International) Company Ltd. in June 2013.
For a company to carry out business within the Freeport zone, Malta Freeport Authority must grant it a license, and its operations must complement the Freeport’s activities. Through the utilization of these facilities, clients can engage in an extensive range of handling operations, including cargo consolidation, break-bulk, storage, re-packing, re-labelling and onward shipping. Malta Freeport also offers assembly and processing options in accordance with the Malta Freeports Act. The operator must ensure that it does not label goods that have been processed in the Freeport with Malta as their country of origin, unless their identity has been substantially transformed within the zone. Companies operating within the Freeport benefit from reduced tax rates, as well as investment tax credits without customs interventions.
Malta Freeport offers round-the-clock industrial storage operations supported by a highly developed, customized infrastructure, as well as extensive transport networks, which link Malta to various important markets on a regular basis, including port connections in North America, Central America, and South America. Warehousing facilities lie only six kilometers from the island’s international airport, offering excellent opportunities for sea and air links stretching worldwide. In late 2016, the government issued a call for expressions of interest for the development of a logistics hub – government still has not published a final decision on this call. The aim of the project is to attract local or international operators to submit their proposals for the concession of the design, construction, financing, operation, and maintenance of an international logistics center on 45,000 square meters of land in Ħal Far. The Government of Malta’s vision is to have a strategic hub for international trade, serving as a Free Zone or as a Custom Warehouse.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Currently, no performance requirements exist, other than the goals that the investors link to applications for assistance with Malta Enterprise. Foreign investors can repatriate or reinvest profits without restriction and take disputes before the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The government does not require foreign investors to establish or maintain data storage in Malta. However, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the independent regulatory body responsible for the governance of all gaming activities, does require gaming companies to hold their data in Malta.
Foreign IT providers incorporated in Malta that process personal data in the context of the activities of an establishment, qualifying as data controllers within the Data Protection Act, fall within the jurisdiction of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. The Data Protection Commissioner stated there has never been an instance where, during an investigation, the Commissioner has requested access to source code or to encryption functions.
Any transfer of personal data by a controller established in Malta to a third country that does not ensure an adequate level of data protection is subject to the authorization of the Data Protection Commissioner as required by the Data Protection Act. In an attempt to facilitate and harmonize the implementation of this requirement, the European Commission adopted model clauses (Standard Contractual Clauses and Binding Corporate Rules – the latter used for sharing of personal data within a group of companies) which controllers may use for this purpose. No authorization is required for transfers made to EU Member States, members of the EEA, third countries which are, from time to time, recognized by the European Commission to have an adequate level of protection, and to companies that are certified under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. Furthermore, any personal data shared (rather than transferred) between data controllers in Malta must rely on a legal basis.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted in 2016, entered into force on May 25, 2018. The GDPR, which succeeds the Data Protection Directive of 1995, aims to protect EU citizens’ personal data, harmonize data privacy laws across the EU, and provide for better coordination among EU Member State data protection authorities. U.S. companies wishing to operate in Malta or to do business with Maltese individuals or entities should ensure compliance with the regulation.
Data controllers processing personal data are subject to the rules emanating from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These rules must be observed to ensure that the processing activities are carried out fairly and lawfully and with respect to the data subjects’ fundamental rights and freedoms. The competent authority in Malta that regulates and monitors observance with this law is the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property and contractual rights are enforced by means of (a) legal warning; (b) warrants of seizure; (c) warrants of prohibitory injunction; (d) warrants of impediments of departures (if proceedings fall within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court); and (e) sale of property by court auction. The Code of Organization and Civil Procedures lays out procedures for registering and enforcing judgments of foreign courts. Rights and secured interests over immovable property must be publicly registered in order to be enforceable. The Government of Malta has occasionally been a party to international arbitrations and has abided by tribunal decisions.
The 2006 Maltese Securitization Act provides for a range of securitization transactions within its secure regulatory framework and offers various legal and international tax benefits. Malta permits the creation of securitization cell structures, allowing for multiple cells with clear segregation of assets and liabilities between each cell. Foreign investors typically use securitization for passporting funds, which allows a firm registered in the European Economic Area (EEA) to do business in any other EEA state without the need for further authorization from each country, and for investment within the EU. Investors typically use this system over the securitization of property.
According to latest data collected by the World Bank Doing Business report, registering property in Malta generally takes 17 days and costs 13.5 percent of the property value, and includes seven different procedures to legally transfer title on immovable property. Malta made the transfer of a property more expensive by introducing the new property transfer tax. The Property transfer tax (PTT) is the default transaction-based tax that affects transfers of any real right over immovable property from one party to another. It is calculated at the rate of 12% of the transfer value of the immovable property involved in a given transaction. Globally, Malta stands at 152 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.
Intellectual Property Rights
The Maltese legal system adequately protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of intellectual property rights (IPR). In 2000, Malta implemented the pertinent provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Malta has fully incorporated EU and WTO rules into national law.
In addition, Malta is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is party to the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
Malta is not listed in the USTR’s Special 301 Report, nor is it included in the Notorious Market List. The Association against Copyright Theft claims that Malta’s local laws do not include high enough minimum fines to deter vendors from selling counterfeit or pirated material.
Malta’s Commerce Department within the Ministry for the Economy, Investment, and Small Business is responsible for IPR-related issues.
Malta’s Stock Exchange was established in 1993. In 2002, the Financial Markets Act effectively replaced the Malta Stock Exchange Act of 1990 as the law regulating the operations and setup of the Malta Stock Exchange. This legislation divested the Malta Stock Exchange of its regulatory functions and transferred these functions to the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). The Financial Markets Act also set up a Listing Authority, which is responsible for granting “Admissibility to Listing” to companies seeking to have their securities listed on the Exchange.
To date, the few companies publicly listed on the Malta Stock Exchange have not faced the threat of hostile takeovers. Malta has no laws or regulations authorizing firms to adopt articles of incorporation/association that would limit foreign investment, participation, or control. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms; several U.S. auditing firms have local offices.
Money and Banking System
The Maltese banking system is considered sound. In recent years, local commercial banks expanded the scope of their lending portfolios. Capital is available from both public and private sources; both foreign and local companies can obtain capital from local lending facilities. Commercial banks and their subsidiaries can provide loans at commercial interest rates. It is possible for new investors to negotiate soft loans from the government covering up to 75 percent of the projected capital outlay.
No U.S. bank has a branch in Malta. BNF and HSBC Malta currently maintain direct correspondent banking relationships with U.S. banks. Some local banks act as correspondents of several U.S. banks via other EU banks, though such a relationship often results in higher transaction costs.
The majority of banks have stopped opening accounts for companies that do not operate in Malta, those that operate in the electronic gaming sector, and those operating in the cryptocurrency sector. The few banks that still offer these services have tightened their due diligence processes, resulting in long delays to open accounts.
Malta takes pride in being the first country to propose a legal framework for the creation of an Authority to regulate Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Internet of Things (IOT) devices. In 2018, Government enacted three legislations that provide a regulatory framework on Distributed Ledger Technology, issuers of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), and related service providers dealing in virtual currencies, which currently fall outside the scope of a legislative and regulatory regime.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
As long as investors present the appropriate documents to the Central Bank of Malta, there are no limitations on the inflow or outflow of funds for remittances of profits, debt service, capital, capital gains, returns on intellectual property, or imported raw materials. There are no significant delays in converting investment returns to foreign currency after presentation of the necessary documents. Maltese regulations and practices affecting remittances of investment capital and earnings have been streamlined, as several foreign exchange controls were relaxed to conform to EU directives. Malta joined the Eurozone in January 2008.
A company incorporated under the laws of Malta is considered ordinarily resident and domiciled in Malta. Companies which are ordinarily resident and domiciled in Malta are subject to tax on their worldwide income. A company not incorporated in Malta, but managed and controlled in Malta, is subject to tax on a remittance basis on its foreign-sourced income.
Companies subject to tax on a remittance basis are taxed on:
Income and capital gains deemed to arise in Malta
Income deemed arise outside Malta and remitted to Malta
Companies subject to the remittance basis are not taxed on:
Income deemed to arise outside Malta which is not remitted to Malta
Capital gains arising outside Malta
Companies which are not incorporated in Malta are considered to be resident in Malta when their management and control is shifted to Malta.
Malta does not allow the application of the remittance basis of taxation to individuals who are either (a) domiciled but not ordinarily resident or (b) ordinarily resident but not domiciled in Malta, whose spouse is both ordinarily resident and domiciled in Malta. In this regard, such individuals will now become taxable on their worldwide income and capital gains, irrespective of receipt/remittance of such income to Malta not domiciled in Malta.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Malta has recently established the National Development and Social Fund (NDSF) to manage and administer receipts from the country’s Individual Investor Programme. Since inception through October 2019, it raised a total of EUR 544 million ($593 million). The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute ranked Malta’s NDSF the 71st world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. The fund receives 70 percent of its contributions from the country’s citizenship program. It has future charitable commitments of EUR 56 million and, funds will also be funneled into the economy to help soften the economic crises brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission of the NDSF is to contribute towards, promote, and support major projects and initiatives of national importance and public interest. These initiatives and projects are intended to develop and improve the economy, public services, and the general well-being of present and future generations.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The Malta Investment Management Company Limited (MIMCOL) was established in 1988 to manage, restructure, and selectively divest the Government of Malta from state-owned enterprises (SOEs). MIMCOL also promotes private sector investment using cost-effective business practices across various SOEs. MIMCOL created strategies leading to the dissolution of SOEs with limited commercial prospects, as well as the profitable spin-off of non-core operations with commercial potential. MIMCOL’s focus then turned to SOEs deemed of strategic national value, but whose inefficient operations were reflective of a lack of competition. Eventually, MIMCOL prepared most SOEs for privatization and sold them off. Today, MIMCOL’s role has evolved into specialized assignments, such as strategic reviews of the management and operations of important parastatal companies and corporations operating in various sectors.
MIMCOL’s sister company Malta Government Investments (MGI) holds a portfolio of 17 companies (excluding companies falling under the responsibility of other ministries and investments held directly by the government). This portfolio is not well defined. Most government investments are held by either the Board of Trustees within the Ministry for the Economy, Investment, and Small Business, or by Malta Government Investments Limited (MGI) as an agent for the Government of Malta.
In recent years, the Maltese government has privatized a number of state-controlled firms, including the country’s largest bank, the postal service, shipyards, energy generation plants, and the wireless telecommunications industry. Although no plans exist to privatize Air Malta, the national airline, the Government of Malta was considering options for a strategic minority partner, though these plans are currently on hold. Ryanair also operates a subsidiary airline called Malta Air that incorporated its 61 Ryanair routes to and from Malta. The Ryanair fleet will register with the Malta Aviation Authority.
In 2015, the Government of Malta set up Projects Malta and Projects Plus Ltd to coordinate and facilitate public private partnerships between government ministries and the private sector. The government welcomes private investors, Maltese and non-Maltese, in privatization projects. It affords foreign investors equal treatment with domestic investors and sets few limitations on their operations. The government recently finalized its first international public-private partnership in the healthcare industry. Foreign investors can repatriate or reinvest profits without restriction and take disputes before the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become more prevalent in Malta in recent years, as global concerns such as climate change have risen to the forefront and as the EU has raised expectations for its member states regarding CSR. An increasing number of companies in Malta recognize the importance of their role in society and the real benefits of adopting a proactive approach to CSR.
The Maltese government does not specifically request adherence to OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; however, it is expected that multinationals follow generally accepted CSR principles.
Under the Code of Good Corporate Governance Guidelines, issued by the Malta Financial Services Authority in 2006, boards should seek to adhere to accepted CSR principles in day-to-day management practices and work closely with “suppliers, customers, employees, and public authorities.” Although corporate governance guidelines are non-binding in nature, public interest companies should highlight the adherence to such corporate governance principles in their annual reports.
In line with recent amendments to the Companies Act, the directors’ report that accompanies the annual financial statements should include an analysis of both financial and non-financial key performance indicators relevant to the particular business, including information relating to environmental matters.
Maltese law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implements these laws effectively. The Malta Police and the Permanent Commission against Corruption are responsible for combating official corruption. Past news reports suggest a number of government corruption allegations; however, few have resulted in legal action or resignations.
Public sector corruption, including bribery of public officials, is not a significant challenge for U.S. firms operating in Malta. The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) completed its fifth evaluation of Malta in the autumn of 2018 and its findings were published in September 2019. Following the four previous rounds of evaluation and a follow-up compliance review, Malta introduced a number of legislative measures to combat corruption and is currently in the process of introducing further measures to improve its financial oversight.
Malta has taken significant steps over the years to combat corruption, including the establishment in 2002 of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) to support domestic and international law enforcement investigative efforts. The Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations were transposed into Maltese law in July 2008, and conform to EU Directive 2005/60/EC (the Third Directive) and Directive 2006/70/EC. Malta transposed the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive in December 2017 and, in April 2018, announced its first national Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Funding of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Strategy.
The latest report by the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) calls on Maltese authorities to strengthen their practical application of measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. MONEYVAL acknowledges that the authorities have demonstrated a broad understanding of the vulnerabilities within the system, but a number of important factors – notably predicate offences, financing of terrorism, legal persons and arrangements, and the development of new technologies and the use of cash – appear to be insufficiently analyzed or understood.
The report further notes that while Malta has a sound legal framework to fight the financing of terrorism, the report notes that few investigations have been conducted so far which have not resulted in any prosecutions or convictions. While noting recent progress, the report concludes that the actions undertaken by the authorities are not fully in line with the country’s exposure to possible terrorism financing risks. Based on the results of its evaluation, MONEYVAL decided to apply its enhanced follow-up procedure and invited Malta to report back in December 2020.
Local Laws: U.S. firms should familiarize themselves with local anti-corruption laws, and, where appropriate, seek legal counsel. While the U.S. Department of Commerce cannot provide legal advice on local laws, the Department’s Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) can provide assistance with navigating the host country’s legal system and obtaining a list of local legal counsel.
Assistance for U.S. Businesses: The U.S. Department of Commerce offers several services to aid U.S. businesses seeking to address business-related corruption issues. For example, the FCS can provide services that may assist U.S. companies in conducting due diligence as part of the company’s overarching compliance program when choosing business partners or agents overseas. The FCS can be reached directly through its offices in major U.S. and foreign cities or through its website at www.trade.gov/cs. The Departments of Commerce and State provide worldwide support for qualified U.S. companies bidding on foreign government contracts through the Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center and Department of State’s Office of Commercial and Business Affairs. Problems, including alleged corruption by foreign governments or competitors, encountered by U.S. companies in seeking such foreign business opportunities can be brought to the attention of appropriate U.S. government officials, including local embassy personnel and through the Department of Commerce Trade Compliance Center “Report a Trade Barrier” website at http://tcc.export.gov/Report_a_Barrier/index.asp.
Guidance on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) FCPA Opinion Procedure enables U.S. firms and individuals to request a statement of DOJ’s present enforcement intentions under the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA regarding any proposed business conduct. The details of the opinion procedure are available on DOJ’s Fraud Section website: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa. Although the Department of Commerce has no enforcement role with respect to the FCPA, it supplies general guidance to U.S. exporters who have questions about the FCPA and about international developments concerning the FCPA. For further information, see the Office of the Chief Counsel for International Counsel, U.S. Department of Commerce website at https://ogc.commerce.gov/collection/office-chief-counsel-international-commerce.
Additional Anti-Corruption Resources:
Useful resources for individuals and companies regarding combating corruption in global markets include the following:
Transparency International (TI) publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The CPI measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015.
TI also publishes an annual Global Corruption Report that provides a systematic evaluation of the state of corruption around the world. It includes an in-depth analysis of a focal theme, a series of country reports that document major corruption related events and developments from all continents and an overview of the latest research findings on anti-corruption diagnostics and tools. http://www.transparency.org/research/gcr/overview.
The World Bank Institute publishes Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). These indicators assess six dimensions of governance in 212 countries, including Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption. http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.aspx#home.
The World Economic Forum publishes the Global Enabling Trade Report, which presents the rankings of the Enabling Trade Index and includes an assessment of the transparency of border administration (focused on bribe payments and corruption) and a separate segment on corruption and the regulatory environment. The latest reports are available at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-enabling-trade-report-2016/.
Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization, publishes its annual Global Integrity Report, which provides indicators for 92 countries with respect to governance and anti-corruption. The report highlights the strengths and weaknesses of national level anti-corruption systems. https://www.globalintegrity.org/research/reports/.
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
Malta signed the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2005 and ratified it in 2008, but it has not signed the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contact at government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Malta Police Commissioner
St. Calcedonius Square
Floriana FRN 1530
+356-2122 4001 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Charles Deguara
Auditor General of National Audit Office
Notre Dame Ravelin
Floriana FRN 1600
+356-2205 5555 email@example.com
Contact at watchdog organization:
Permanent Commission Against Corruption
Chateau De La Ville
Valletta VLT 2000
+356-2567 4309 Pcac.firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Political and Security Environment
Malta is considered to have a safe political system and is secure relative to other countries in the region.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Malta’s labor force at the end of 2019 stood at 258,064 (83.4 percent male). The country’s population is about 493,500, the smallest in the EU. For 2019, the national minimum monthly wage was $853 (EUR 761.97). The estimated average gross annual salary of employees stood at $21,823 (EUR 19,488); this amount refers to the basic salary and excludes extra payments such as overtime, bonuses, and allowances. In 2019, on a sectoral basis, the highest recorded average gross annual salary for employees was in financial and insurance activities. Social insurance contributions add ten percent to the wage bill, together with a 0.3 percent contribution to the government maternity fund. Free or subsidized meals, commuting allowances, and health insurance are the most common fringe benefits. In addition, employees are entitled to 25 days of annual leave and public holidays that fall on a weekday. National law establishes a minimum number of sick leave days.
Foreign companies that have invested in Malta have a high regard for the ability, productivity, and learning potential of Maltese workers, nearly all of whom speak English. In some industries, labor productivity is comparable to other countries in Western Europe. Maltese managers now run most of the foreign firms in Malta. Malta enjoys one of the lowest strike rates in Western Europe, and labor unrest is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Government of Malta strictly adheres to the ILO convention protecting workers’ rights.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
Although Malta, as a high income country as defined by the World Bank, generally does not qualify for DFC support, energy infrastructure projects in Malta could qualify under the European Security and Energy Diversification Act. Malta’s leading trading partners (the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy) offer risk insurance programs similar to DFC that likewise cover investments in Malta. Malta is a member of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
Foreign Direct Investment
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
* Source for Host Country Data: Malta National Statistics Office
** Exchange rates: $1 = €0.893 (2019 figures); $1 = €0.848 (2018 figures)
*** The total has been suppressed to avoid disclosure of data of individual companies.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)