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Nestlé doing fine in Dubai

Nestlé has its headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland

(Keystone)

After a series of moves reflecting the turbulence of the region, the world's largest food group Nestlé relocated its Middle East headquarters to the United Arab Emirates three years ago. The results, it says, have been highly satisfying.

The multinational, based in the Swiss town of Vevey, has been operational in the Middle East for more than 60 years, but its regional headquarters has had a chequered history.

Initially based in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in the 1950s, Nestlé was forced to move its regional centre to Kuwait at the start of the Lebanese civil war in the mid-1970s.

However, when the Gulf War began in early 1991, Nestlé was forced to move its Middle East headquarters back to Switzerland where it remained until 1997.

The final move came with Alexandre Cantacuzene, chief executive of Nestlé Middle East, who has been with the Middle Eastern operation since it relocated its regional headquarters to the UAE's second largest emirate, Dubai, three years ago.

He told swissinfo: "Dubai has been attracting everyone to locate here - today it is the commercial capital of the Middle East."

Cantacuzene explained that Dubai's attraction lay in its liberal economic policies, still something of a rarity in the region.

"If I leave Dubai even for a month, when I come back I can visibly see how things have moved on once again - Dubai is always progressing," said Cantacuzene. "The Middle East and Gulf region have a big potential for Nestlé and this is why we came here - no one can run a business 6,000 kilometres away from the region you're working in."

The Nestlé headquarters in Dubai, located in the world's largest free trade zone in Jebel Ali, coordinates operations across the Middle East.

Home to more than 15,000 international companies, the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone is the major business and industrial centre in the UAE.

The free trade zone not only exempts companies from taxes and duty but also allows foreign firms to control 100 per cent of their own operation, unlike in the rest of the UAE where foreign firms can only control a maximum of 49 per cent of any business.

Swiss businesses are well represented in the UAE, with more than 200 firms working in the country.

Helping them to maintain a high profile are the Swiss Business Councils in Dubai and the UAE's largest emirate, Abu Dhabi. Cantacuzene believes they play an important part in continuing to improve the prospects for the Swiss business community in the emirates.

"The Swiss Business Councils are certainly an excellent back-up for Swiss companies wanting to explore the region," said Cantacuzene.

Now firmly settled in Dubai, Nestlé has a SFr1 billion business operation in the region.

by Tom O'Brien


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