There are three primary ways to establish a company in Qatar:

(1) to establish an entity under the Commercial Companies Law;

(2) to establish an entity under the Qatar Financial Centre; and

(3) to establish an entity under Qatar Science and Technology Park. For certain business activities, establishing a branch office or enter into a commercial agency relationship may be a more appropriate means for doing business in Qatar.

Establishing a company under the Commercial Companies Law

As discussed above, there are a number of different methods to establishing a business in Qatar and the choice of the optimal route will depend on the nature of the business contemplated. As a starting point we would always recommend taking specific legal and accounting advice.

The Commercial Companies Law permits a number of types of company that may be established, some of which are:

  • Single Person Company
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Joint Stock Company/Qatari Shareholding Company

A Single Person Company must have a minimum capital of QAR 200,000 which is fully paid up. The company is owned by only one shareholder holding 100% of the shares. This company is mainly used by Qatari nationals, due to the restrictions on foreign ownership, however, with a specific exemption, a foreign owner may be permitted.

A Limited Liability Company (“LLC”) must have a minimum capital of QAR 200,000 which is fully paid up. The LLC may have between 2 and 50 members, but must also be 51% owned by Qatari persons (unless a specific exemption has been obtained). An LLC may not raise capital by public subscription and may not issue freely transferable shares or bonds. Existing shareholders have pre-emption rights on disposals of shares. LLCs cannot carry out banking or insurance activities or provide investment services on behalf of third parties.

A Joint Stock Company/Qatari Shareholding Company (“QSC”) may be public or private. Publicly held JSCs can be listed on the Qatar stock exchange. The minimum capital for a public JSC is QAR10 million, and QAR 40 million if it is a listed company. The minimum capital for private JSC is QAR 2 million.

Other structures such as the Holding Company, the Simple

Partnership and the Joint Partnership are available under the Commercial Companies Law.

Establishing a company under the QFC

The QFC permits companies and partnerships to be established, or alternatively the registration of a branch of a non-QFC entity, however only certain limited activities may be carried out by QFC entities. Broadly speaking, these activities fall into two categories: regulated activities (such as banking and financial services) and non-regulated activities (such as ship broking and shipping agents, classification and investment grading, company headquarters, management offices and treasury operations, professional services such as audit, accounting, tax, consulting and legal services, and holding companies).

Establishing a company under the QSTP

Entities that establish in the QSTP do so by incorporating or registering a branch office. All applicants must apply for a licence and enter into a lease agreement for a QSTP premises. There are three categories of licence available: Standard Licence; Restricted Licence and Service Licence. A QSTP limited liability company with a standard licence must have a minimum share capital of QAR 200,000 and have at least 2 shareholders. The holder of a standard licence will receive the full Free Zone benefits offered by the QSTP. A Restricted Licence may be given to an entity that does not qualify for a standard licence, however such entity may not receive all the Free Zone benefits. A Service Licence is provided to entities that act as service providers to QSTP occupants, but the Free Zone benefits are not available under such licence.