More than 50 hedge funds are in conversation with DIFC about setting up shop in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Hedge fund managers and golfers alike have a message from the United Arab Emirates: if you enjoy South Florida, you’ll enjoy the Middle East. The city of Dubai is attempting to become a brilliant new centre of trade…

Hedge fund managers and golfers alike have a message from the United Arab Emirates: if you enjoy South Florida, you’ll enjoy the Middle East.

The city of Dubai is wooing some 50 significant hedge funds to the business-friendly waters of its Dubai International Financial Centre in an effort to establish itself as a gleaming new commercial centre (DIFC). I’m hoping they can also create sweet tea.

Beyond the Hedge

The United Arab Emirates wants the world to know that it is open for business and offers creature pleasures that few other countries in the world can match, much like its two neighbours Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The DIFC is decreasing the licencing costs and domestic fund capital requirements in an effort to entice US hedge firms to locate there. In addition to the obvious benefits, such as tax-free status, a favourable time zone for businesses spanning Asia and North America, close proximity to Abu Dhabi’s $1.2 trillion in ready-to-use sovereign wealth funds, and a short private jet flight to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth spigot, there are additional advantages.

And when they say “open for business,” they truly mean it. The UAE has been friendly while the majority of the globe is cooperatively squeezing Russia’s upper crust. The Financial Times claimed that over the past year, tens of thousands of Russians have moved out to the UAE to get over the numerous sanctions and limitations put in place by Europe and its allies. And only earlier this month, MTS Bank of Russia received an operating licence from the UAE, making it the first foreign bank to do so in years.

There are currently a few American hedge firms that have committed to join them in the DIFC, and there will undoubtedly be more:

  • Izzy Englander’s $50 billion Millennium Management has established an office in Dubai with about 30 employees after obtaining a DIFC licence in 2020, according to Bloomberg. ExodusPoint Capital, co-founded by ex-Millennium employee Michael Gelband, who accompanied Englander to Dubai in June, is not far behind.
  • According to Salmaan Jaffery, chief business development officer of the DIFC, the roughly 50 hedge funds in discussions with the organisation collectively oversee more than $1 trillion in assets.

Even if the drawbacks of doing business in Dubai are clear, they should be noted: consider West Palm Beach without the mojitos or the ability to practise your religion.

The city on the sand dune The Saudi Public Investment Fund late last week debuted its new crown gem, not to be matched by the UAE’s hedge fund blitz. Downtown Riyadh is set to house The Mukaab, a gleaming, meticulously designed business-commerce-residential mega-complex that will be 20 times larger than the Empire State Building. It resembles a Las Vegas resort in appearance, but without the drinking, gambling, and other activities that are common in Sin City.

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