Without a local Omani sponsor, it is highly difficult for companies to operate in Oman. With only a handful of exceptions, the Foreign Business and Investment Law states that all commercial companies must have one Omani national member, and at least 35% of the profits and the capital must be owned by Omani nationals. In public transport, real estate and utilities services, the minimum ownership by Omani nationals is 51%; in a public information service, the minimum is 33%.
Since 1982, foreign investment is prohibited in commercial companies offering trading or services. Agricultural, fishing and construction projects can have 25% foreign investment or 49% if the project is deemed to be necessary to economic development.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry stipulates that a company with foreign investment must have the minimum capital of RO150,000, although this may be reduced to RO30,000 with approval.
Companies that are exempt from the above regulations are:
• Those operating solely on a Governmental or public institution contract.
• Those carrying out enterprises deemed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as economic development projects.
• Licensed banks
• Individuals or companies who are providing professional services, such as architects, lawyers, accountants, engineers and consultants.
Recent press releases have suggested that participation of foreign investors could go up to 60-70%. This will be as part of the privatisation programme which aims to diversify the country's oil-dependent economy, attract foreign investment, create a competitive environment, boost cost savings and encourage job creation.