Apple granted exemption, will open two Apple Stores in UAE

Apple is reportedly revving up plans to build not one, but two Apple Stores in the United Arab Emirates after it received a government exemption to an ownership law that required at least 51% local ownership of any facility built outside of so-called "free zones". 

The company was apparently refusing to build retail facilities in the region until it was able to receive the exemption, which will give the company full ownership of its stores. The stores will be the first in the Middle East, and are located in a small but important market region. The initial store is earmarked for Dubai this year, with a second store planned for Abu Dhabi in the future. 

There are about 17 million cellular subscribers in the area, but 61 percent of them use smartphones. Apple's iPhone 5s was the most popular phone in the fourth quarter of 2014. The wealth in some parts of the UAE, coupled with an influx of foreign tourists and expats, should make it a lucrative market for Apple.