French economic presence in the United Arab Emirates

Bilateral trade between France and the United Arab Emirates recorded a rebound in 2019


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The UAE is France’s 2nd largest trading partner in the Near and Middle East.

Remaining France’s 2nd largest customer in the Middle East, the UAE attracted 22% of French exports to the region in 2019. The federation is also France’s  3rd largest supplier (13% of French imports). The volume of bilateral trade (exports and imports) amounted to EUR 4.8 billion in 2019.

The bilateral trade balance is structurally in surplus for France, ranking the UAE as France’s 7th largest trade surplus in the world (EUR 1.7 billion in 2019).

Bilateral trade between France and the UAE witnessed an increase in 2019

French exports to the UAE recorded an increase in 2019 (reaching  EUR 3.3 billion).

The structure of French exports to the UAE is diversified and relatively stable (excluding aeronautics). Thus, the sales of French products are mainly composed of mechanical and electronic equipment (25% of our exports) followed by chemicals, perfumes, and cosmetics (22%).

The luxury goods sectors recorded a 7% year-on-year increase to EUR 980 million in 2019 (nearly 30% of total exports).

Dominated by hydrocarbons, the UAE exports to France reached an all high time of EUR 1.5 billion EUR in 2019. Refined petroleum products accounted for almost 80% of French imports.

French companies have firmly established a strong presence in all strategic sectors of the UAE economy.

France has built a strong and diversified economic presence in the UAE.

The UAE is home to the largest number of French companies in the Middle East, with nearly 600 subsidiaries employing more than 30,000 people (including 222 VIE).

Several large groups such as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and intermediate-sized businesses have chosen to set up their regional headquarters in Dubai. French companies are active in all the major sectors of the regional economy (aeronautics and space, civil and military, luxury goods, energy, sustainable development, urban transport, banking and insurance, hotels, major stores, industry).

France is one of the top biggest foreign investors in the UAE

The stock of French FDI in the UAE stood at EUR 1.25 billion at the end of 2018.

France is the 4th largest foreign investor in the UAE, with 4% of the FDI stock recorded in 2016.

France is also the 3rd largest foreign investor in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 2016 (with 7.7% of the FDI stock) and is the 5th largest foreign investor in the Emirate of Dubai in 2018.

French companies hold prominent positions in several sectors (energy, water, hospitality in particular). TOTAL, which has been present in the UAE market since 1939, is the leading French investor with numerous shareholdings (oil, gas, solar power). After the renewal of its onshore concessions in 2015, the company signed the renewal of its subsea concessions in  2017.

ENGIE produces nearly 45% of the country’s electricity production; EDF is participating (in partnership with MASDAR) in the construction of the world’s largest solar power park in Dubai. SUEZ is involved in seawater desalination. VEOLIA is involved in water treatment and energy efficiency. ACCOR is the leading hotel operator in Dubai.

Investment flows from the UAE to France are increasing

In France, the UAE is the 2nd largest investor among the Gulf countries with an FDI stock of EUR 1.46 billion in 2018 (or 25% of the region’s investments). About 50 companies are partially or wholly owned by UAE capital in France.

The UAE’s asset portfolio in France is widely spread in the real estate sector.

UAE investments are oriented towards securities and real estate, either directly or through investment funds. However, investment in industry has been increasing slightly since 2013. The preferred territories are Ile-de-France (Paris region), the Rhône-Alpes region and the PACA region (South of France).

On an attractiveness basis, Bpifrance and Mubadala have built a strong partnership. In November 2017, during the visit of the President of the French Republic to the UAE, Mubadala and Bpifrance signed an investment partnership agreement with a target investment capacity of EUR 1 billion. The investment platform is comprised of two strategic components. The first component, dedicated to support the development of French companies with a proven growth potential, increasing the scope of their investment with a budget of EUR 500 million.

The second component is dedicated to supporting technology and innovation companies in France. In partnership with Bpifrance, a budget of EUR 500 million will be invested in innovative French technology companies (ICT, biotech, green technologies), in all stages of their development, through both direct investments and venture capital funds.