A view of a street in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Valery Sharifulin | TASS | Getty Images
The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) is “very actively involved” in inviting firms to relocate to the emirate, according to its director general.
“We’ve been very actively involved in talking to a lot of these companies to get them to relocate to Abu Dhabi,” Tariq Bin Hendi of ADIO told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday.
He stopped short of confirming that SoftBank is one of the firms that could move to the UAE, but said the country’s response to the coronavirus had been a “huge boost” to such discussions.
The United Arab Emirates has reported 145,599 virus cases as of Nov. 11, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Companies are ultimately run by people, and the people have seen how it is that we really focused on protecting human capital and the folks that make Abu Dhabi and the UAE what it is,” Bin Hendi said.
“There are discussions ongoing with a lot of these international firms and we’re hoping to come out with some really good news shortly, on some of the relationships that we have,” he added.
SoftBank declined CNBC’s request for comment on Tuesday. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth firm, Mubadala, has invested $15 billion into the Vision Fund, which focuses on tech investments. It has pumped money into companies including WeWork, Uber and Slack.
Bin Hendi said SoftBank has been a “very good partner” to Abu Dhabi, but that the emirate’s push into the technology sector goes beyond just one company.
“We’re talking to some of the smallest companies that are out there, as well as some of the largest,” he said. “For us, it’s about … how do you address every one of the components of an ecosystem to make things thrive?”
He also discussed ADIO’s 152 million dirham ($41 million) investment into three agriculture companies that was announced this week.
“All of this funding that we’re providing to these companies is in the form of effectively free capital to grow their businesses here and deploy their technology in the desert,” he said. The investment is part of a 1 billion dirham program in the emirate.
Asked whether such projects would allow the UAE to import less food, Bin Hendi said this is a long-term initiative.
“We’re not going to be able to really put a dent into that 90% number anytime in the short term, so we’re going to have to actually build out, we’re going to have to test multiple technologies,” he said. The UAE relies on other countries for nearly 90% of its food.
“I think that over the next three to five years, you’ll probably start to see that number come down quite nicely on the core goods that we require,” he added.