In brief

In addition to the comprehensive economic support and stimulus program launched by the UAE Central Bank to curb the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE has introduced radical amendments to the UAE Bankruptcy Law, offering distressed debtors with some level of leniency during these times of economic uncertainty and market disruption caused by circumstances outside of their control.

Key changes include: adding new provisions to the law related to “emergencies” such as pandemics and natural and environmental disasters; new debtor’s rights to delay filing for bankruptcy and to resort to out-of-court settlement agreement with creditors; and mechanisms to obtain new financing under certain rules and conditions.


What’s new?

Under the current UAE Bankruptcy Law, courts were required to apply a much more objective test to declaring a debtor’s bankruptcy. With the new amendments, there now appears to be a subjective element to the court’s evaluation of the debtor’s position, as the court can now consider the conditions surrounding the debtor’s default(s) and opt to grant them a generous grace period of twelve months to amicably negotiate mutual terms with their creditors.

This certainly shows some level of leniency when compared to the usual and mandatory procedure of directly applying to the courts to declare the debtor’s bankruptcy and thereafter appointing a trustee to take hold of the business.

With many businesses facing financial difficulties and having fallen (or are on the verge of falling) into default on their debts due to the direct or indirect impact of COVID-19, the new amendments to the UAE Bankruptcy Law may have provided an alternative route to what previously would have been perceived as imminent bankruptcy. The amendments also introduce mechanisms allowing debtors to obtain new financing under certain rules, which is necessary to pay their debts and continue their operations.

The official text of the new provisions to the law is eagerly awaited as this is certainly a proactive step in the UAE’s efforts to constantly update the legislative and regulatory frameworks and contribute to enhancing investor confidence and resilience and sustainability of businesses in the UAE.

It is therefore recommended that businesses facing credit difficulties thoroughly consider the new relief granted by these recent amendments to the UAE Bankruptcy Law.

For further information, please feel free to contact one of the lawyers above or your usual Baker McKenzie contact.

Author

Mazen Boustany is the UAE Head of the Financial Regulatory, Policy & Legislative Group of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, based in Dubai. He has over 22 years' experience in banking and finance law in the Middle East, including financial services regulation, Islamic finance, structured finance, securitisation, private equity, financial structuring and restructuring, cross-border transactions and investment funds. Mazen has helped draft many of the financial regulations for the UAE Central Bank and Ministry of Finance.

Author

Amir Alkhaja is the Head of the UAE Banking Litigation team of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla. He is an expert in commercial, white collar crime and banking litigation, with over 15 years of experience in the UAE. Amir was previously a police officer in the Dubai Police and is a licensed UAE lawyer with rights of audience in local and federal courts of the UAE.

Author

Ali Dakhlallah is an associate in Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla's Dispute Resolution Practice Group. Ali's practice experience is focused primarily on complex local and cross-border commercial, banking, distribution and commercial agency disputes.

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