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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.


Mazen has over 22 years’ experience in banking and finance law in the Middle East and has practiced in the UAE for more than nine years. He is a certified Professional Director from the Mudara-Institute of Directors and is a member of the UK Securities Industry Management Association (SIMA). He has also been awarded the CISI Level 3 Certificate in Derivatives, Securities and Financial Regulations, and Financial Regulations, and the Islamic Finance Qualifications (IFQ) and is a certified Basel III professional (2011) and DIAC qualified arbitrator as well as a registered practitioner before the DIFC courts. In 2012, Mazen was appointed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as a short term consultant to advise on UAE legislative matters in relation to security laws.


Amir Alkhaja is a Senior Associate in Baker McKenzie's Dubai office.


Ali's practice experience is focused on dispute resolution with an emphasis on complex local and cross-border banking, commercial and corporate disputes. Ali is WIPO certified in Intellectual Property Law.