Establishing a business in Qatar can become a complicated matter. There are restrictions on foreign ownership and many sector specific activities for which certain regulatory approvals are required. In short, there is no one size fits all solution. Outlined below are some of the main laws in Qatar relating to conducting business. While we set out an outline of these laws, this should not be regarded as legal advice, and we would recommend that specific legal advice is sought in relation to any prospective establishment or business in Qatar.

Some of the main laws that may relate to conducting business in Qatar are as follows:

  • Law No. 22 of 2004 (the “Civil Code”);
  • Law No. 5 of 2002 (the “Commercial Companies Law”) is the primary law relating to corporate establishment in Qatar – this is the primary law relating to corporate establishment in Qatar. The two most common forms of company are the limited liability company and the joint stock company (which may be public or private). The limited liability company has the widest application while the joint stock company is usually adopted for larger ventures due to the higher capital and regulatory requirements. Other forms of vehicle such as partnerships and unincorporated joint ventures are also possible;
  • Law No.13 of 2009 (the “Foreign Investment Law”) places restrictions on foreigner persons who wish to incorporate a company in Qatar. The two main limitations are the percentage of ownership and the types of business which foreigners can invest in;
  • Law No. 25 of 2004 (the “Proxy Law”) prevents a Qatari from facilitating ownership of a Qatar company by foreign persons in contravention of the applicable laws;
  • Law No.8 of 2002 (the “Commercial Agency Law”) relates to arrangements made by foreign entities who enter into commercial agency relationships with wholly owned Qatari entities or a Qatari individual; and
  • Law No 21 of 2009 (the “2009 Tax Law”) which sets out the tax regime for businesses in Qatar.

Qatar Financial Centre

The Qatar Financial Centre (“QFC”) was established pursuant to QFC Law, No 7 of 2005 (the “QFC Law”), which was enacted in March 2005.

The QFC is designed to attract international financial service providers. Unlike its similar counterparts in other GCC jurisdictions, the QFC is not a Free Zone; there are no physical boundaries and the capital of firms licensed under the centre can be fully owned foreign entities. Permitted activities include regulated activities such as funds and wealth management, retail banking, insurance and certain other activities such as accounting, auditing and legal services.

The QFC Law establishes the various bodies that are necessary for the operation of the QFC including:

  • the QFC Authority, which is its commercial and strategic body, responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the QFC’s legal and regulatory regime;
  • the QFC Regulatory Authority, a separate body which acts as the regulator of the QFC;
  • the QFC Civil and Commercial Court, an independent body which deals with matters arising under the QFC Law; and
  • the QFC Tribunal, responsible for hearing appeals by entities, individuals and corporate bodies against the decisions of the Regulatory Authority or the QFC Civil and Commercial Court.

The laws and regulations of the QFC are freely available on its website, and of particular note are:

  • The QFC Regulations, which establish the legal framework for those doing business in the QFC;
  • The QFC Financial Services Regulations, which are the primary regulations governing the management, objectives, duties, functions, powers and constitution of the QFC Regulatory Authority;
  • The QFCA Rules, which comprise the rules made and guidance issued by the QFC Authority; and
  • The QFCRA Rules, which are issued by the QFC Regulatory Authority and relate to the operations of financial institutions.

Qatar Science and Technology Park

Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) is a national agency charged with executing applied research and delivering commercialised technologies in four areas: Energy, Environment, Health Sciences, and Information and Communication Technologies. QSTP is a free zone, and therefore provides the typical benefits to be expected from a GCC Free Zone, which include 100% foreign ownership, the ability to sponsor expatriate staff, and unrestricted repatriation of capital and profits. The QSTP also offers the benefit of zero taxation.

In order to establish in the QSTP, the entity must demonstrate that the majority of its activities will contribute to the advancement of technology or research in keeping with the QSTP’s objective. The entity that is established becomes a licensed branch.