DUBAI, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- In the first half of 2013, the banking hub Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) managed to increase the number of licensed firms by 7 percent to 979, while the number of people working in the center surged by 1,000 to hit 15,000 employees.
The first half of 2013 was "a continuation of the center's success over the last decade," said Jeff Singer, the chief executive of the DIFC authority, adding the center has expanded its source markets, including sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
According to Singer, who took over as the center's CEO a year ago, 94 commercial licenses have been issued in the first half of 2013, and the total leased commercial space increased by 11,362 square meters in the same period, a 6-percent increase over December 2012.
"The DIFC reaches permanently out to new markets," said Singer, "and the fact that now 4 out of the top 5 Chinese banks run operations in the Middle East from the DIFC proves that the center has emerged as a globally recognized financial hub in the Middle East."
Despite the ongoing debt crisis in Europe, Singer said that European financial institutions' interest in expanding to the Middle East by setting up in the Gulf Arab sheikhdom's financial center showed no let-up.
The financial industry in Europe is much more fragmented than its counterpart in Asia, he added, "meaning you have in general more firms coming to Dubai than from Asia, but Indian or Chinese banks establish branches with a higher headcount within the DIFC."
Set up in 2004, the DIFC is from a legal point of view "a state within a state" as the DIFC is regulated and supervised by the Dubai Financial Services Authority whose framework is based on internationally compatible law similar to the one in Britain. The official language in the DIFC is English rather than Arabic, and the currency is the U.S. dollar instead of the Emirati Dirham.
The 0.45-square-km DIFC district also harbors two international markets, the Nasdaq Dubai and the Dubai Mercantile Exchange. The center has its own courts, the DIFC Courts, and presence of 21 of the 25 biggest banks in the world along with 6 of the 10 largest insurance firms.
Out of the 979 firms located in the DIFC, 365 are regulated entities such as banks, insurance firms and asset managers, while 133 are retailers such as shops, boutiques and restaurants.