Doing Business with the United Arab Emirates: World Expo 2020 Opens in Dubai

More+Events ♦ Published: September 23, 2021; 11:56 ♦ (Vindobona)

The World Expo 2020, which kept its name despite being delayed to 2021, is set to begin in Dubai on 1 October. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a particularly sought-after market for many Austrian companies. Read about the upcoming Expo, the economic relationship between Austria and the UAE, and some of the many Austrian companies that have found success there.

The Austria Pavilion at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. / Picture: © WKO Austrian Chamber of Commerce / Expo Austria

The World Expo 2020, which kept its name despite being delayed to 2021, is set to begin in Dubai on 1 October. As is common for such a large event, the focus will not only be on the world exhibition but also on the host country itself.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a heavily sought-after destination for companies from all over the world if they want to venture into the Arab market. The UAE fulfills a hub function in the Middle East and serves as a hub between the Arab world, Asia and Africa.

There are 150 Austrian companies represented in the UAE with subsidiaries or branch offices, and several hundred also operate through agents or importers.

High export activity

The industries in which Austria is particularly successful include the construction sector and construction subcontracting, vehicles, foodstuffs, machinery, measuring instruments, and especially beverages.

The President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), Harald Mahrer, emphasized the importance of the UAE market, “Export volumes have developed almost exponentially over the past 45 years since official diplomatic relations between Austria and the UAE have been established. From virtually zero in 1970 to 100 million euros in 2000.”

In 2015, the figure then increased eightfold to almost 800 million euros, only interrupted by temporary declines due to oil prices. Since 2015, Austria has been in such a phase again, recording an export volume of 450 million euros in 2020.

“Once the COVID-19-related difficulties have subsided, but especially as a result of Expo 2020, we expect a longer-term sustainable upswing, driven by the real estate sector and the UAE's efforts to diversify the country industrially. This is where Austrian companies can score in the future,” said Margarete Schramböck, the Austrian Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs.

Domestic investments

Austria is already one of the largest investors in the UAE. Austrian investments fell by 14.6 percent to 7.6 billion euros in 2020, but the UAE has remained in seventh place on the list of the most important destinations for Austrian direct investments.

“OMV is particularly noteworthy here, but Alpla and Vamed should also be noted. Emirati investments in Austria have also decreased by 22.4 percent to 4.5 billion euros in 2020, due to the sale of 39 percent of Borealis shares from the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala to OMV," said the Austrian economic delegate in Abu Dhabi, Richard Bandera.

Success stories from Austria

Two buildings that are success stories from an Austrian perspective are the Burj Khalifa and the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

In the construction of the Burj Khalifa, DOKA GmbH supplied formwork and safety equipment, Lisec Middle East supplied the glass front, Waagner-Biro & Unger Stahlbau supplied roofing, Ecotherm GmbH supplied the heating system, and Austrian Tech GmbH supplied the pipe system in the Armani Hotel. The steel foundation came from voestalpine AG, the garage system came from SKIDATA, and Herz Energietechnik GmbH provided new piping.

At the Louvre, Waagner-Biro was responsible for the dome, Zumtobel for the lighting, and Geberit for the WC systems. Reel Tech supplied the luminaire lifts and NOUS Wissensmanagement GmbH its NOUS audio guides.

One of the most successful Austrian companies in the UAE is Unger Stahlbau GmbH, which offers customized solutions for architectural steel construction, trade fair and event buildings, sports, leisure, and multi-purpose buildings. With a production facility in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, which went into operation in 2007, Unger Stahlbau has long since gained a foothold in the Arab region. The list of buildings to which Unger contributed its services is long: House of Wisdom Sharjah, CLYMB Abu Dhabi, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, BEE'AH waste logistics center Sharjah. The company is also responsible for the glass dome in the Mall of the Emirates.

Bene AG, Red Bull, Swarovski, and voestalpine AG are also very successful in supplying their products to the UAE.

PORR “Deep Tunnel Storm Water System” Project

PORR was able to secure a major contract in Dubai in 2018. The construction company implemented the “Deep Tunnel Storm Water System” project for Dubai Municipality together with Belhasa Six Construct.

With this infrastructure project, the full-service provider PORR succeeded in entering the market in the promising economic area of the United Arab Emirates.

Regarding winning the contract, PORR CEO Karl-Heinz Strauss said, “Dubai is one of the central locations for the Arab economic region. Our many years of experience with high-tech pioneering projects and our outstanding international reputation in the implementation of complex large-scale projects in the infrastructure sector were decisive factors in winning the contract.”

With the help of the tunnel, groundwater and rainwater will be directed towards a pumping station by the sea. Around 40 percent of Dubai's urban area will be drained through the tunnel, including Dubai South, Al Maktoum International Airport, the EXPO 2020 site, and neighboring villages.

Economic missions

The economic missions planned by the Abu Dhabi Foreign Trade Center include program items such as visits to relevant leading trade fairs, B2B meetings, participation in workshops, tailor-made appointments with authorities and decision-makers in the UAE and the region, visits to companies, and more.

Some highlights for Austria are the Austria Connect Conference on 18 November, as well as the Austrian National Day. This trip also includes a VIP tour of the Austria Pavilion at the World Expo.

Group exhibitions

During the Expo period, ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA (AUSSENWIRTSCHAFT AUSTRIA) is planning to participate in world-leading trade fairs in order to enable local companies to network with potential customers from all over the world.

Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce