UPDATE 1-Abu Dhabi allows foreigners to own freehold properties in investment areas-state media

(Adds details)

DUBAI, April 17 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi will now allow all foreigners to own land and property in investment areas on a freehold basis after making changes to its real estate law, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The United Arab Emirates capital previously limited ownership largely to Emiratis and citizens of the neighbouring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

Residential units in investment areas will now be registered under Abu Dhabi’s freehold law, according to Abu Dhabi real estate firm Aldar Properties, citing a government statement. Previously, foreign investors in Abu Dhabi were largely restricted to 99-year leases, it said.

“This will not only further drive the maturity of Abu Dhabi’s real estate market, but will also increase transparency and provide clarity of title for property owners, increasing long term investment, injecting more liquidity into the market and encouraging longer term residency,” Aldar chief executive Talal Al Dhiyebi said in a statement.

Aldar announced on Wednesday a recently launched residential project on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, where land and property can be sold to all nationalities, had sold out and generated over 400 million dirhams ($109 million) in sales.

The oil rich emirate’s revenues have been hit in recent years by lower oil prices as the government prioritised diversifying its economy into other sectors such as tourism.

Abu Dhabi property prices fell by 6.4 percent in the fourth quarter compared to corresponding period, the Central Bank said in a report.

Last year, Abu Dhabi as announced a $13.6 billion economic stimulus package and other economic initiatives.

Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE federation.

The UAE economy grew by around 1.7 percent in 2018, slower than projected despite a boost from higher oil prices, according to official preliminary data. ($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham) (Reporting by Dahlia Nehme; writing by Nafisa Eltahir & Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Toby Chopra)