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Dubai as financial center pays off

(Xinhua)

10:02, September 21, 2011

DUBAI, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- As a financial and trade center of the region, Dubai had managed to attract a number of financial heavyweights this year, especially due to its relative stability while some countries in the region were going through political crises and turmoil.

The Dubai International Financial Center, which was founded in 2004 and is located in the heart of Dubai, is now home of 261 banks, insurers and asset managers from around the world, including 15 of the world's largest banks.

Sharekhan Investment Services Ltd, a subsidiary of Sharekhan Ltd., one of the largest retail stock brokerage houses from India with an online trading platform, received last week a license from the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) to operate in the DIFC.

DIFC Authority CEO Abdulla Al-Awar welcomed the firm by saying that "Sharekhan's decision to use the DIFC as a platform to service its regional clients is a further testament of the center' s position as the preferred destination for global players seeking to build their business in the Middle East. We welcome them to our growing multinational community."

In the DIFC, where around 12,000 people are working, English, not Arabic, is the business language, and the U.S. dollar is the legal currency.

However, competition is fierce in the Gulf Arab region. Qatar has established the Qatar Financial Center in 2006 and likewise attracted the top names of the financial world.

Qatar needs financial expertise from all over the world in order to help financing the FIFA World Football Championships which it will host in 2022.

Saudi Arabia is currently building the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh, and Oman legalized Islamic Finance in February to tap the global market.

Not only new banks and asset managers move to the "fly-buy- Dubai", as the city is called in business circles, so do the frustrated firms from neighboring countries where protests and unrest are prevailing.

French bank Credit Agricole decided to transfer 65 of its staff from the Bahraini capital Manama to Dubai by the end of the year. Craig Hewett, who built up the Bahrain Financial Exchange (BFX), has left the bourse and joined the DIFC-based NASDAQ Dubai as its head of business development. RBS Coutts, the private banking arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, announced last week that it had applied for a banking license to operate in the DIFC. The Bahrain Financial Harbor, an iconic financial center in the country, has hardly seen an influx of new market participants.

The DIFC is strengthening its ties with other financial centers abroad. On Sept. 13, the DIFC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Pudong Financial Services Bureau, a government financial agency of a newly developed district of Shanghai.

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