The United Arab Emirates is one of the more stable Gulf states and attracts a number of our clients. It has a small, wealthy population, no history of terrorism, and no sectarian tensions to speak of. The country is also supported by strong relations with the US. The UAE has a low level of democracy and transparency, but heavy oil-funded spending on security and social benefits help ensure there are few real challenges.

We ensure our clients make sound investment decisions in the UAE, using our risk-assessed total analysis model. Our teams keep our clients informed of the latest market moves and political developments as part of our 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' perspective. Our expert views are supported by our interactive data and forecasting. We also provide in-depth analysis on 21 of the UAE’s most important industries. Our analysts will ensure you find doing business in the UAE is made easy.

Country Risk

United Arab Emirates Country Risk

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Core Views

  • Lower oil prices will hit growth as government spending and consumer confidence falls. We forecast real GDP growth at 2.3% and 2.46% in 2016 and 2017 from a 3.8% in 2015

  • Dubai will see an even sharper slowdown as discretionary spending from the rest of the Gulf, and the impact of weaker currencies in China and India take their toll on investment ad spending.

  • Credit growth to the private sector will remain relatively slow through 2016 as commercial banks continue to increase provisioning against potential loan losses due to the debt funding cliff.

Key Risks

  • Any attack by Islamist militants would result in a fundamental reappraisal of both the UAE's, and the wider region, risk profile.

  • Any breakdown...

United Arab Emirates Operational Risk Coverage (9)

United Arab Emirates Operational Risk

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BMI View: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most attractive destinations for investment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) given its integrated supply chain network, openness to international trade and foreign investment and liberal tax regime. The country stands out among its regional peers due to its stable and secure operating environment which offers a relatively low risk of crime and terrorism and strong legal protection for foreign investors. The only major risks stem from the labour market, as the small domestic population offers limited appeal, while the vast pool of migrant workers is largely unavailable due to restrictive laws regarding employment of expatriates. Nevertheless, the country's broad-based appeal to investors means that it is a regional...

United Arab Emirates Crime & Security

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BMI View: The UAE's crime and security environment is the most conducive to the secure and safe operation of a business in the MENA region. With relatively low crime rates and highly capable police force, businesses can be assured of efficient crime prevention, thus mitigating costs for insurance and additional security measures. Simultaneously, although the region is notoriously unstable, the UAE faces limited risk of terrorist attacks and enjoys open diplomatic channels with neighbouring states within the MENA region. The UAE has a robust security force and well-equipped military. There is a limited presence of organised crime, and although is some risk of exposure to financial...

United Arab Emirates Labour Market

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BMI View: Businesses in the UAE must be aware that they will be required to import foreign workers for a wide variety of positions ranging from low-skilled construction labourers to highly-skilled oil and gas workers. This is due to the country's small population, which is relatively poorly educated and remains predominantly employed in the public sector. This entails some significant risks to businesses, mainly stemming from the bureaucratic hurdles and costs associated with importing foreign staff, the lack of flexibility in recruiting from the vast migrant labour pool, and the growing risk of more stringent restrictions on the employment of expatriates. Nevertheless, the UAE's labour market also offers some advantages,...

United Arab Emirates Logistics

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BMI View: The UAE has developed a role as a key link in the global supply chain, with its ports and airports serving as major hubs on international trade routes between Europe and Asia. Robust government investment in transport infrastructure, the strategic development of free zones as well as the minimisation of trade bureaucracy ensure that the country offers world class facilities at its air and maritime terminals. Congestion remains a key concern for internal supply chains, as there are no alternative options to the road network, however, ongoing investment...

United Arab Emirates Trade & Investment

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The United Arab Emirates is one of the most attractive destinations for trade and investment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The country possesses a well defined and implemented legislative environment, as well as strong intellectual property rights. We see little in the way of direct trade and investment risk, particularly given government support of pro-market policies.

We have given the UAE a score of 66.3 out of 100 in our Trade and Investment Risks Index, placing the country first out of the 18 countries covered in the MENA region. As one of the largest Arab economies, as well as being well-placed for trade elsewhere, the UAE offers a large market to foreign investors. Moreover, a low tax regime and relatively strong intellectual property rights help to bolster it score. Furthermore, compared with the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE has many incentives to foreign direct investment (FDI) and its tax and...

United Arab Emirates Industry Coverage (22)


United Arab Emirates Autos

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BMI View: The combination of strong consumer demand and a growing population provides an encouraging backdrop for UAE's new vehicle sales prospects in 2016. We are targeting 4.9% sales growth for the sector.

Total Vehicle Sales, United Arab Emirates
f = BMI forecast. Source: Industry sources, BMI
Key Views
  • 2015 has proved another positive year for UAE new car sales, which should be on track for 420,000 units by...

Commercial Banking

United Arab Emirates Commercial Banking

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Commercial Banking Sector Indicators
Date Total assets Client loans Bond portfolio Other Liabilities and capital Capital Client deposits

Consumer Electronics

United Arab Emirates Consumer Electronics

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BMI View: The UAE is a lucrative consumer electronics devices market where high incomes and a culture of consumption are reflected in short replacement cycles and a large share for premium brands. This will continue over the medium term, but growth prospects are limited by the economic downturn as a result of the fall in oil prices in 2014 and 2015. This has filtered through to lower confidence levels and could impact the economy further over the medium term. Reflecting this, we downgraded our forecast for devices spending in Q116 and now envisage a compound annual growth rate of just 0.3% 2016-2019 to USD4.6bn. While the market as a whole has a subdued outlook there are areas of stronger performance, for instance hybrid notebooks in the retail market, and TV set sales as hotel capacity has expanded ahead of the 2020 World Expo....

Defence & Security

United Arab Emirates Defence & Security

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BMI View: The UAE's local defence industry is still in the early stages of development, and as such, domestic companies rely on assistance from foreign firms to manufacture sophisticated military equipment. The armed forces' requirements for high-tech naval, air power, missile and surveillance products are therefore predominantly met through imports. However, the government - as part of its economic diversification strategy - is working to expand the local defence industrial base, and is actively encouraging joint ventures (JVs) between international companies and UAE-based entities. The country ranks in the top 15 globally for the size of its defence budget, and we expect further spending growth over our forecast period to 2025, driven by the rising threat from...

Food & Drink

United Arab Emirates Food & Drink

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BMI View: We forecast strong growth in the UAE's food and drink industry over our five-year forecast period, on the back of rapid developments across the sector. Rising disposable incomes and growing female participation in the labour force will drive demand for convenience foods and retailing. The influx of modern coffee retailers will be supported by the country's strong hot drinks culture as well as growing adoption of western trends.

Food and Drink Spending
BMI/National Statistics

Freight Transport

United Arab Emirates Freight Transport

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BMI View: We expect continued robust growth across the UAE's freight modes in the near term and over our medium-term forecast period to 2020. Massive investment into freight transport infrastructure - not least the development of the UAE's nascent rail network - will ensure that growth in freight volumes continues far beyond our forecast period. This will be driven not only by domestic demand, but will also be massively informed by the UAE's becoming one of the world's foremost global transhipment hubs.

Looking at the UAE's domestic trade growth prospects, we are bullish in both real and nominal terms. Looking first at real growth, we forecast an expansion of 5.1% in total trade in 2016, followed by a further 4.9% in 2017. Imports will outpace exports, at 6.2% to 4.0% in 2016 and 6.0% to 3.7% in 2017. This...

United Arab Emirates Freight Transport

BMI View:

BMI View: Growth across the UAE's freight modes and shipping sector is set to be strong in 2016 and over the course of our forecast period. Continued economic expansion, despite lower oil prices, will maintain healthy consumption and consequently trade levels. Oil exports will return to positive growth this year driving throughput, particularly at ports. A growing private healthcare industry and e-commerce business are boosting air freight which will be the fastest growing mode over the medium term. Nonetheless, road will continue to dominate in light of an absence of inland waterways and...

Information Technology

United Arab Emirates Information Technology

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BMI View: The UAE IT market contracted in 2015 as a downturn in hardware spending dragged down the overall market. We envisage a return to growth in 2016 and the growth rate to remain subdued but stable over the medium term. Our forecast envisages a CAGR of 3.6% over 2015-2019 to AED19.2bn in 2019. The hardware market will be challenging as a result of market maturity and economic uncertainty, but we have a brighter outlook for software and services as enterprise and government modernisation initiatives continue. The areas of strongest growth will be cloud services and IoT solutions adoptions, with the UAE a regional leader for both.

Latest Updates & Industry...


United Arab Emirates Infrastructure

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BMI View: We are maintaining our forecast for solid construction industry growth over our forecast period as investors seeks to capitalise on the infrastructure opportunities in the run up to Expo 2020 hosted by Dubai - particularly in the non-residential and transport sectors. Also supporting interest in Dubai's market is its more diverse economy, which has kept it fairly insulated against the commodities price drop that dampened growth in the more oil-dependent Abu Dhabi.

Forecast & Latest Updates

  • We are forecasting 6.6% real growth over 2016 and an annual average of 6.1% over the first half of our forecast period up to 2020. Dubai's preparation to host Expo 2020 is providing major growth opportunities...


United Arab Emirates Insurance

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BMI View: The insurance market in the United Arab Emirates is growing rapidly, bolstered by wider economic growth and an increasingly robust regulatory framework. The non-life market is considerably more developed than the life sector, with higher rates of penetration and density, primarily due to extensive demand for mandatory health insurance by the large expatriate population in the UAE. Life insurance is less established, and again demand is primarily driven by foreign workers unable to access generous state benefits provided to nationals. Both life and non-life are expected to show steady premium growth over our five-year forecast period through to 2019, making this an attractive market for insurance providers, though we note some restrictions on foreign investment remain.

Headline Insurance Forecasts (United Arab Emirates 2012-2019)

Medical Devices

United Arab Emirates Medical Devices

BMI View:

BMI Industry View: The United Arab Emirates will remain an attractive market and an important regional hub, despite moderate market growth of 9.3% over the forecast period. Population growth, a changing epidemiological profile, a growing medical tourism industry, continuous healthcare infrastructure developments, an expanding health insurance and increasing health expenditure will be key market drivers. With rising healthcare costs and a period of lower oil prices, the government will attempt to increase private sector participation to stave off the erosion of state revenues.

Headline Industry Forecasts...

Oil & Gas

United Arab Emirates Oil & Gas

BMI View:

BMI View : While we forecast UAE's oil and gas production to experience sustained growth over the next five years, additional output will be subsumed by strongly expanding domestic demand. As such, we believe the UAE will grow increasingly dependent on imports of pipeline gas and LNG across the forecast period, while its crude exports will see a minor decline too. That said, recently ramped-up domestic refining capacity will turn the country into a net exporter of refined products from 2016 onward.

Headline Forecasts (United Arab Emirates 2014-2020)...


United Arab Emirates Petrochemicals

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The UAE's diversification of feedstock with mixed-feed cracker capacity should support competitiveness at a time when external markets are affected by a surge in exports from Saudi Arabia and Iran and diminished import growth in China. Polymer margins have held up in spite of the pressures, but in H116 the UAE faced lower petrochemical product prices, while at the same time its chief rivals are in a better cost position with more competitively priced feedstock.

A higher level of naphtha use in the UAE's petrochemicals industry should enable it to benefit from low crude oil prices, polymer product prices have been falling faster than feedstock costs. The situation is a result of unfavourable trends in export markets, notably in Asia. The expansion of the Borouge facility in Abu Dhabi has merely exacerbated the oversupply situation.

However, on the upside, the Borouge plant overcame...

Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

United Arab Emirates Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

BMI View:

BMI View: The UAE will remain one of the most attractive pharmaceutical and healthcare markets in the Middle East and Africa Region. A rising chronic disease burden will drive demand for high-value medicines, particularly cancer drugs. The market is dominated by patented medicines, mainly imported from Western suppliers due to their perceived superiority. However, this current model is unsustainable over the long term and as such, the supply of generic cancer medicines in the UAE will increasingly be satisfied by the domestic industry, limiting the country's escalating healthcare costs.

Headline Expenditure Projections

  • Pharmaceuticals: AED10.77bn (USD2.93bn) in 2015 to AED11.62bn (USD3.17bn) in...


United Arab Emirates Power

BMI View:

BMI View: This quarter our forecasts remain virtually unchanged, and we continue to hold an upbeat outlook for the UAE power sector - this is driven by the government's efforts to expand its power capacity. As corroborated by recent developments, we continue to expect the UAE to focus on expanding its nascent nuclear and solar industries, which will result in these two sectors making a much...

Real Estate

United Arab Emirates Real Estate

BMI View:

BMI View: Despite external pressures, demand in the commercial real estate industry is rising. Premium units in the office and retail sub-sectors are witnessing further investor interest; whilst expansion plans in industrial real estate could see rentals rise. We therefore hold optimism for commercial sector growth over 2016, although advice vigilance in light of falling oil prices that will stretch the economy.

The United Arab Emirates holds economic strength through prominent sovereign wealth and further diversification from oil related sectors into contemporary industries over the past few years, more so than the neighbouring Gulf states, with over 40% of GDP contribution coming form services. This indicates resilience to debilitating effects from the global economic cool down, a result of the fiscal struggles in China (a major trade partner) that has undoubtedly led the Arab nation to adopt...


United Arab Emirates Renewables

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BMI View: We continue to see the UAE as a hotspot for solar power in the GCC over the next decade, due to good climatic conditions, strong government support and an increasing cost-competitiveness of solar in the country's power sector. Federal aims to lower the reliance on natural gas through the development of cleaner sources of power, amid strong power consumption growth, lends further support to this view.

Renewables Headline Forecasts (United Arab Emirates 2015-2021)
2015e 2016f 2017f ...


United Arab Emirates Retail

BMI View:

BMI View: We retain optimistic growth forecasts for the UAE's retail market. The next four years leading to Dubai Expo 2020 will give a boost to the economic diversification, as gargantuan infrastructural and private projects pick up steam. Consumer confidence is likely to remain intact and inbound tourism is set to persist, both of which will continue rewarding retailers with unparalleled opportunities until 2019.

The UAE is highly reliant on oil revenue; as a result, the fall in oil prices during the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 resulted in a damage to the UAE economy. After a shock, the real GDP increased by 3.9% in 2014, a marked improvement from growth of just 1.6% in 2010. We expect to see real GDP growth reach 4.0% in 2015 and this will bode well for growth in the UAE's retail...


United Arab Emirates Shipping

BMI View:

BMI View: The UAE's shipping sector, one of the best developed and most important in the world, will continue to expand rapidly in 2016 and over the medium term. The Dubai port of Jebel Ali is the ninth largest in the world in terms of container throughput, owing largely to transhipment volumes, while the Abu Dhabi facility of Port Khalifa, only launched in late 2012, is expanding rapidly thanks to the KIZAD industrial zone being developed alongside it. It is due to these different sources of growth that we expect Khalifa's growth to far outpace Jebel Ali's in 2016 and beyond. Aside from the base effects of Khalifa still being a relatively newly launched facility, Jebel Ali's reliance on transhipment trade will negatively impact it given our expectation of rocky global growth in 2016, with the eurozone in particular not looking especially healthy.



United Arab Emirates Telecommunications

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Latest Updates & Industry Developments

  • In the first nine months of 2015 the UAE mobile market saw a net increase of 542,000 subscribers. This is based on data reported by Etisalat and du, as well as the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). We estimate that the total number of mobile subscriptions reached 17.12mn by the end of 2015, equivalent to a penetration rate of 187%. We expect the UAE mobile market to maintain positive growth throughout our forecast period, through to 2020, due to strong competition between Etisalat and du, as well as the continued influx of migrant workers and temporary visitors on the back of an improving economy, a stable political environment and major events in the...


United Arab Emirates Tourism

BMI View:

BMI View: We maintain a positive outlook for the United Arab Emirates' (UAE's) strong tourism industry, as visitors are continuously drawn to its numerous attractions and extensive hotel sector. Supporting transport infrastructure is very well developed and the government is investing further in air travel connections to ensure that the UAE remains the most accessible market in the region. While security concerns in the Middle East have the potential to derail growth, we presently forecast healthy growth in tourism arrivals and tourism-related expenditure throughout the forecast period to 2020.

Key Forecasts (United Arab Emirates 2013...


United Arab Emirates Water

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BMI View:  

We have substantially expanded our forecasts this quarter to include a number of new indicators. This data has, in turn, impacted our existing forecasts. Our extraction forecast has been upgraded following the addition of desalinated water production forecasts, a sector where we anticipate strong growth over the coming years. In addition, we have expanded our wastewater forecasts, and have good growth projections for treated wastewater, which will in turn augment the water resources available for consumption, as we anticipate treated wastewater can cater to much of the industrial and agricultural requirements, freeing up freshwater and desalinated water supplies for domestic consumers.

We expect that desalination will continue to provide the lion's share of the country's water supplies. There are concerns that ground water resources will disappear entirely...

Latest United Arab Emirates Articles

Latest United Arab Emirates Blogs

  • The tentative rapprochement between Iran and the US, which began in the sec...

  • The Middle East is at a critical juncture. The anticipated nuclear deal bet...

  • Four years after the start of the Arab Spring, the prospects for much of th...

Latest United Arab Emirates Podcasts

  • As a decade of rising oil prices comes to an end, OPEC's decision to l...

  • The rise of jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq poses ...

  • BMI's Key Projects Database is a proprietary tool which not only helps...


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