QFC enacts new special company and single family office regulations
25 October 2012
By Asia Asset Management
The Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFC Authority) has issued regulations to govern special purpose companies, holding companies and single family offices operating in or from the QFC.
The Special Company Regulations (SCRs) and Single Family Office Regulations (SFORs) were issued on September 27. The regulations provide for a more attractive legal, regulatory and business environment consistent with the QFC’s reputation as a world class financial centre. They will expand the range of services the QFC firms will offer and the structures they may adopt, notably single family offices and special purpose companies.
The SCRs provide the legislative framework for special purpose companies (SPCs) and holding companies. SPCs are entities created to fulfil specific or temporary objectives. They can typically be used in transactions involving the acquisition and financing of specific assets. SPCs are usually subsidiary companies with an asset/liability structure and legal status that make their obligations secure, isolating risk and minimising the danger of insolvency even if the parent company becomes insolvent.
SPCs are granted a number of exemptions which would not ordinarily apply to conventional companies in the QFC. For instance, SPCs are exempt from certain provisions of the QFC Companies Regulations including exemption from the requirement to audit or file accounts or hold annual shareholders’ meetings. In addition, corporate and administrative services can be provided to SPCs by a support service provider licensed either in the QFC or in another jurisdiction subject to approval.
The business of holding companies is set out as "Permitted Activities" under Schedule 3, Part 2 of QFC Law where there is reference to the "business activities of holding companies, and the provision, formation, operation and administration of trusts and similar arrangements of all kinds". The SCR seek to more clearly define, explain and clarify the activities in which holding companies may engage, such as: holding subsidiaries; granting security interest over assets; providing an indemnity; guarantee or similar support to any third party for the benefit of any of its subsidiaries; the acquisition and holding of any interest in any asset whether tangible or intangible for the benefit of any of its subsidiaries;
The SFORs permit single family offices (SFOs) to provide services to a "single family". An SFO is a private company dedicated exclusively to the investment, legacy and financial needs of one wealthy family. Interest in SFOs has grown over the last decade as wealth has increased around the world. An SFO may take a variety of different forms, but ultimately its primary purpose is to manage the investments and finances of a wealthy single family. These services may include accounting, fiduciary, investment, property management, governance and related services.
Commenting on the new regulations, Shashank Srivastava, CEO of the QFC Authority, said: “The QFC Authority has been strengthening its environment to offer a state-of-the art business platform for local, regional, and international firms. A business looking to establish itself within the QFC environment – whether Qatari or foreign – can count on certain and clear regulatory and tax regimes.”
David Dhanoo, group chief legal officer and board secretary of the QFC Authority, stated: “These regulations are another step forward in the QFC Authority’s policy of offering the most attractive environment for a wider variety of firms and businesses to operate, including Qatari firms and businesses. In particular, the regulations will offer new opportunities for family offices and for businesses wishing to launch special purpose vehicles and develop their operations from the QFC’s world class tax, regulatory and legal environment.”
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