Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) saw the number of active companies locating there rise to 5,523 during 2023, a significant 26% year-on-year boost from 4,377 in 2022.

The 1,451 new companies established in DIFC in 2023 represented the highest number of new registrations annually in the Centre’s history, up 34%.

DIFC also announced it is ahead of target to double its GDP contribution by 2030.

The results reflect the vision set out 20 years ago by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai for DIFC to make an effective contribution to the international financial services industry, promote the Emirate and develop the economy.

2023 combined revenues grew at their fastest levels since inception, approaching AED 1.3bn, 23 per cent higher than 2022. Operating profit reached AED 859mn, up 27 per cent. Reflecting the strength of DIFC’s financial position, total assets were AED 18bn, an increase of 18 per cent.

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the UAE; and President of the Dubai International Financial Centre, said:

“Two decades ago, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, articulated an ambitious vision to transform Dubai into one of the world’s leading global financial hubs. This vision has remained the cornerstone of DIFC’s sustained performance over the years. DIFC’s unprecedented growth in 2023 further consolidates Dubai’s status as the region’s foremost contributor to the global financial services industry.

“As DIFC continues its journey of success, its accelerated growth trajectory is perfectly aligned with the goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to double the size of Dubai's economy over the next decade and reinforce its status as one of the world’s top three cities for business and investment. DIFC is focused on expanding and deepening its pool of financial services firms and growth-stage innovation businesses, whose success contributes to both the UAE and Dubai’s economic growth.

"Through strategic initiatives that support our partners’ development and expansion, we seek to provide a dynamic environment for innovation and enterprise to flourish. In close collaboration with our partner community, we are set to make DIFC an even more pivotal node in the global financial network,” His Highness added.

The total of financial and innovation related active companies in the Centre now stand at 1,674 up from 1,369 in 2022, a 22 per cent increase. During the year, 316 FinTech and Innovation firms established a DIFC presence, taking the net total to 902.

DIFC has also built the MEASA region’s biggest hub for wealth and asset management of over 350 firms primarily from the GCC, Europe, UK and US. There are now 50 hedge fund related firms in DIFC’s wealth and asset management ecosystem, with 15 establishing in 2023.

Performance is slated for continued growth following the DFSA licensing 117 regulated firms during the year, taking the total to 791 regulated entities.

New registrations included several global powerhouses such as Alliance Bernstein, Asia Research & Capital Management, Balyasny Asset Management, Brevan Howard, Carrhae Capital, Edmond de Rothschild, EnTrust Global, Farro Capital, Hudson Bay Capital, King Street, Lighthouse Partners, Lone Star Europe Acquisitions Limited, Merlyn Advisors, Nomura Singapore, Noventa Capital Management, Raiven Capital, Qube Research & Technologies, The Family Office Company and Verition Fund Management LLC.

Growth also came from existing clients that upgraded their licences in 2023. These companies included Amana Financial Services, Baraka, BlueGold Capital, CapThrone Investments, Lamer Capital and Schonfeld Strategic Advisors.

Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, commented: “DIFC’s 2023 performance reflects the Centre’s standing as the leading global financial hub in the region, central to Dubai’s Economic Agenda (D33). Reflecting DIFC’s position as the primary choice for financial services related companies and innovation firms over the last 20 years, the results catapulted DIFC towards its Strategy 2030 targets which include doubling its contribution to Dubai GDP.”

Arif Amiri, chief executive officer of DIFC Authority, said: “In just 20 years, DIFC has evolved into the region’s centre of excellence for the financial industry where the world converges to innovate and mobilise capital. Being home to the region’s largest cluster of innovation and financial services means the ecosystem is uniquely scaled to a level where it can both capture existing opportunities and create sustainable economic growth. Our focus continues to be on driving the future of finance through collaboration with our clients and by pioneering innovation in the global financial landscape.”

Further highlights included:

• Combined revenues close to AED 1.3bn, 23 per cent higher than 2022’s record-breaking performance; operating profit reaches AED 859mn, up 27 per cent

• FinTech and Innovation remains fastest growing sector, growing to 902 companies, 31 per cent year-on-year

• 791 regulated firms licensed and registered by the DFSA, an increase of 117, the largest cluster of financial firms in the MEASA region. Includes 50 firms with hedge fund activities, 350+ wealth and asset managers, 200+ banks, 100+ insurance companies

• Workforce increased to 41,597, up 15 per cent year-on-year

• Family wealth initiatives introduced, recognising their potential contribution to the economy. 443 foundations in place, 53 per cent increase year-on-year

• First residential offering, DIFC Living sold out fully within 48 hours. DIFC owned and managed properties 99.5 per cent occupied

• Footfall to DIFC’s urban retail district Gate Avenue, increased 25 per cent to 12mn visitors, helped by a growing number of events and the opening of 66 new food and beverage outlets and retail units