The UAE has recently introduced new rules that require companies based in the UAE mainland and commercial free zones to keep registers of their beneficial owners and shareholders. This has come into effect on 28 August 2020.

The prior goal is to introduce the requirement for a beneficial ownership register in the UAE mainland and unify the minimum disclosure requirements for corporate entities incorporated in the UAE mainland and in the non-financial free zones.

A real beneficiary is a physical person who owns or controls at least 25% of a company’s shares. Companies can have several real beneficiaries. If no such person is identified, then the real beneficiary is a physical person who exercises control over the company, and in the absence of any of the above, the real beneficiary is the senior manager of the company.

Let’s dive into the key takeaways 

All companies in the UAE, both mainland and non-financial free zone companies must now keep the following at their office premises:

A. shareholder register

B. a register of beneficial owners

B. a register of nominee directors.

  1. Companies affected have until 27 October 2020 to set up a register of their real beneficiaries as well as shareholders.
  2. Companies must notify the Registrar of any change or amendment to the information provided within 15 days of such change or amendment.
  3. Companies are required to designate a point of contact whom the Registrar may contact in relation to any disclosure.
  4. Each and every company must take reasonable steps to ensure transparency, to obtain accurate information regarding the beneficial ownership, and to update the information on the registers on an ongoing basis.
  5. Companies that are listed in well-regulated stock exchanges or companies that are owned by these listed companies may rely on the disclosures made to the relevant stock exchange rather than making independent inquiries as to the beneficial ownership.

The information contained within companies’ registers will be kept confidential by the Ministry of Economy and registrar.

The regulation does not apply to companies established in the UAE’s financial free zones, or to companies wholly owned by the federal or local government.