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Explainer: What is Dubai World?

  • Dubai World is the Emirate's standard bearer for global investments
  • Government-owned holding company has central role in the Emirate's economy
  • Owns Nakheel, the property developer behind the artificial Palm Islands and The World
  • Business
  • Dubai
  • Dubai World

(CNN) -- Dubai World is Dubai's standard bearer for global investments.

The government-owned holding company is at the center of Dubai's thrust to diversify its economy into property, leisure and investment -- both locally and globally.

Dubai is the most populous of the seven Emirates -- a territory ruled by a Muslim monarch -- that make up the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai World was established in March 2006 under a decree ratified by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Sheikh Mohammed also holds a majority stake in the company.

Dubai World has four main arms of investment: Transport and Logistics, Drydocks and Maritime, Urban Development and Investment and Financial Services.

The company's assets include DP World, one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world. In February 2006, DP World sparked a national security debate in the U.S. when it acquired ports operator P&O.

Several months later it sold P&O's U.S. assets following objections from U.S. legislators that U.S. ports would fall under control of a Middle Eastern operator.

Focusing on Dubai, Drydocks World & Dubai Maritime City, is an organization tasked with turning the Emirate into a major shipbuilding and martime hub.

Istithmar World is the group's investment arm. It is a world-class investment company with extensive investments outside Dubai, notably in Europe, the U.S.and South Africa.

Dubai World made headlines in March 2008 after Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem threatened to take the fund's investment out of Europe, in response to a proposed EU code of conduct for sovereign wealth funds -- state-owned investment companies.

Perhaps the best known arm of Dubai World's holdings is Nakheel the property developer behind world famous projects like the artificial Palm Islands and The World, built on reclaimed land.

There are also plans for The Universe, a series of man-made islands in the shape of the sun, the moon and the planets that would wrap around Nakheel's The World project.

If completed, Nakheel's ambitious waterfront development of Dubai would add over 600 miles of beachfront to the Emirate.

In January 2009, Nakheel announced that work would be halted for 12 months in the ambitious project to build Nakheel Tower, a 200-story skyscraper that would soar to 1km high -- and would become the world's tallest building.