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Oman 2018 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohamed A. Al Yahyaei, Senior Partner of Al Yahyaei and Salt, on considerations for foreign companies and investors as well as government incentives.

Mohamed A. Al Yahyaei,
BIOGRAPHY
Mohamed A. Al Yahyaei is a Senior Partner at Al Yahyaei and Salt and previously worked in public-sector legal affairs for 21 years before transitioning to private practice in 2010. In the same year, he partnered with the Baitulhikma Law Firm of Abu Dhabi. He enhanced his knowledge and experience of law with a master’s of law in commercial law from the University of Sultan Qaboos and is an active member of the Omani community. His practice focuses on the telecoms industry, civil and commercial litigation, criminal law, and Islamic financial transactions.

Considering the firm offers a wide range of legal services, which are most in demand?

As one of the top-tier firms in the country, Al Yahyaei and Salt offers all forms of legal services. We have expertise in financial law as well as insurance law, which is why we have a large clientele in the banking and insurance industry. However, with every passing year, our work in the consultancy services subdivision has grown. We get overseas requests to provide advice. The requests range from foreign investors inquiring about incorporation of new companies to share purchasing, shareholder resolutions, general investments, and related or similar queries. We have provided legal advice to certain leading companies, which include banks, automobile distributors, and new foreign investors who are now ready to set foot in Oman.

What legal challenges do foreign companies face in Oman?

In Oman, the legal challenges are similar for entrepreneurs and investors, whether local or foreign. However, there are certain challenges for foreigners and the Omani administration is doing its best to continually improve as proven by the new FDI Law. However, a foreign investor may have apprehensions due to their lack of knowledge of the legal system in Oman. Some of our clients have mentioned they would have preferred options of cheaper alternate dispute resolution in Oman. Alternate dispute resolutions, such as arbitration or mediation, are at a nascent stage in Oman. Lastly, another concern of foreign investors is compliance with Omanization rules that mandate foreign companies to recruit domestic workers.

What impact will the new FDI Law have on foreign companies interested in investing in Oman?

The new law is cognizant of Oman's investment obligations. These include its agreements with the WTO, its FTA with the US, and several other bilateral trade agreements with other nations. The law is expected to increase investor confidence by ensuring consistency and avoiding conflict with international trade arrangements and agreements. Other changes credited to the new FDI law are the removal of a minimum capital requirements, corporate tax exemptions, custom duty exemptions, and the bold measure of 100% foreign-owned companies. All these features will definitely stimulate foreign investment in Oman. In addition, Oman has a stable administration and fiscal state of affairs.

From a legal point of view, what further incentives can the government offer foreign investors?

Oman is already nurturing foreign investors by providing a wide scale of facilities, such as the development of nine industrial estates—namely Rusayl, Sohar, Raysut, Sur, Nizwa, Buraimi, Al-Mazunah, Smail, and Knowledge Oasis Muscat—and four free zones. These incentives include huge benefits to foreign investors; some even provide tax holiday up to 25 years, online management of investment, online forms to register with Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MOCI) and Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI), and one-stop-shop facilities, wherein investors can benefit from starting a business. However, the need of the hour is to continue this trend of continuous growth, encouraging environment, and new schemes launched for foreign investors with full fervor.

What are the firm's main objectives and goals for 2017-2018?

Our foremost objective is to enhance and sustain our existing services and the quality of services that we have been delivering to our clientele throughout our operations. Nonetheless, we will continue to focus on expansion and growth of our firm in terms of our range of services as well as areas of services. Currently, we are also focusing on community outreach. Our goal is to thrive and also to help others via our efforts, offering pro bono legal services to disfranchised and disadvantaged persons as well.