The Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, conducted meetings with Spanish Foreign Ministry and Parliamentary officials and spoke at a think tank in an effort to further expand the growing relationship between the KRG and Spain.

Iraq’s Ambassador to Spain, Mr. Wadee al-Batti, and the KRG Representative to Spain, Mr. Daban Shadala, accompanied the Minister, who also visited Barcelona on his official trip where he spoke at the CIDOB think tank.

Mr. Gonzalo Benito, the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s Secretary of State for International Relations, said, “We follow your success in Kurdistan closely. We are worried about the entire region but Kurdistan is an exception and is stable and secure.” He expressed his support for the many Spanish firms eager to work in Kurdistan.

Minister Mustafa said, “We want to have a long term, mutually beneficial relationship with Spain, and for this reason we strongly encourage Spain to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Erbil.” The Minister also discussed upcoming Iraqi elections, the crisis in Syria, and the KRG campaign to achieve international recognition of the genocide perpetrated by the previous regime.

The delegation was then received by the President of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Commission, Mr. Alejandro Munoz Alonso. Among other matters, the delegation emphasized the importance of an all-party parliamentary group to support Spain’s growing relationship with Kurdistan.

Such groups already exist in other parliaments in Europe and beyond. Mr. Alonso expressed support for this concept, for the genocide recognition campaign, and for the prospect of upgrading Spain’s diplomatic presence in Erbil.

Minister Mustafa also spoke at the Casa Arabe, a Madrid-based think tank, outlining the KRG view of the Middle East, issues of sovereignty, national identity, and the future of democracy in the region and in Iraq. Regarding Iraq, the Minister explained the importance of the constitution and power-sharing in governance, also discussing the nuances of federalism and confederation and how this applies to the Iraqi state.

In addition the KRG delegation also visited the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation to discuss possible areas of cooperation as well as ways in which to gain from Spain’s experience and expertise.

After meeting with a number of other Spanish officials, foreign diplomats, and members of the Iraqi Embassy in Madrid, Minister Mustafa paid a visit to the KRG Representation Office in Madrid to demonstrate support for their efforts in enhancing the growing relationship.

The number and scope of KRG representations throughout the world has expanded, a reflection of Kurdistan’s increased global economic and diplomatic presence. Minister Mustafa also attended the Kuwaiti National Day Reception at the Intercontinental Hotel in Madrid.

(Source: KRG)

UN Casualty Figures for February 2014, Anbar province excluded

According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 703 Iraqis were killed and another 1,381 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in February*.

The number of civilians killed was 564 (including 152 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,179 (including 262 civilian police). A further 139 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed and 202 were injured (not including casualties from Anbar operation).

“The political, social and religious leaders of Iraq have an urgent responsibility to come together in the face of the terrorist threat that the country is facing. Only by working together can Iraqis address the causes of violence and build a democratic society in which rule of law is observed and human rights are protected”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov said.

ScreenHunter_378 Mar. 02 08.41

Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 790 civilian casualties (239 killed, 551 injured), followed by Salahuddine (121 killed 235 injured), Ninewa (94 killed 133 injured), Babil (53 killed 131 injured), and Diyala (39 killed 96 injured).

Operations in Anbar

According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Committee of the Provincial Council of Anbar, the total civilian casualties in Anbar in February was 298 killed and 1198 injured, with 189 killed and 550 injured in Ramadi and 109 killed and 648 injured in Fallujah. UNAMI has not been able to independently verify these figures nor account for the status of those killed and injured as civilians.

*Casualty figures for February do NOT include casualties resulting from the ongoing fighting in Anbar, which are extracted separately, UNAMI not being able to independently verify these figures nor account for the status of those killed and injured as civilians.

(Source: UN)

(UN image via Shutterstock)

The announcement that Sonangol is to pull out of Iraq due to security problems is disappointing for many, not least for the company, which has been working at the Qayara and Najmah fields for the past four years.

But it must be remembered that while security is always a concern, the extent of the problem varies considerably from place to place, and the specific challenges that Sonangol encountered in Nineveh will not be common to all companies in the sector.

The departure of oil companies is not just a problem for the government, but also for Iraqi people on all sides of the conflict, as services and development cannot be funded without the revenue from the energy industry. As in Libya, disruption of the oil industry is in no-one’s interest.

The government, and the citizens, must be careful not to squander the opportunities that Iraq now has to develop itself.

(Flag image via Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

Angola’s Sonangol has decided to abandon its Qayara and Najmah oilfields in Nineveh province due to security problems.

Reuters reports that Anabela Fonseca, Sonangol board member in charge of international investments, told a news conference:

Our presence in Iraq was as an operator in an area with much conflict. Last year we were unable to develop any work due to security matters … and so we took the decision to leave.

The state-owned company won the right to operate the fields in 2009, taking a 75 percent stake. Reserves are estimated at about 800 million barrels for Qayara and 900 million for Najmah.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Oil said it would not hold Sonangol to its committed schedule at the oilfields, as a result of the problems faced by the company.

(Sources: Reuters, Iraq Oil Report, Aswat al Iraq)

Advertising Feature

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 20th February 2014).

Please click here to download a table of listed companies and their associated ticker codes.

The RSISX index ended the week at ID1,888 (-2.5%)/ $2,005 (-2.5%) (weekly change). The number of week traded shares was 11.2bn and the weekly trading volume was ID26.6bn ($21.8mn).

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 25 23.34

Company Announcements

  • Kurdistan Bank (BKUI): B/S – FY13 (Assets: IQD1,077bn, -7% q/q (+4% y/y), Monetary Credit: IQD162bn, +35% q/q (+88% y/y), Deposits: IQD564bn, -16% q/q (-2% y/y), P&L (annual) – FY13 (Estimated NBI: IQD55.3bn, +7% y/y, Operating Profit: IQD41.3bn, +4% y/y, Profit Before Tax: IQD42.8bn, +7% y/y). P&L (Quarterly) – 4Q13 (Estimated NBI: IQD7.1bn, -74% q/q (+599% y/y), Operating Profit: IQD2.2bn, -91% q/q (vs IQD4.6bn Operating Loss in 4Q12), Profit Bef. Tax: IQD3.0bn, -88% q/q (vs. IQD5.2bn Loss Before Tax in 4Q12).
  • Elaf Islamic Bank (BEFI): B/S – FY13 (Assets: IQD268bn, +1% q/q (-30 y/y), Monetary Credit: IQD62.4bn, +82% q/q (+33% y/y), Deposits: IQD67.2bn, +12 q/q (-45% y/y), P&L (annual) – FY13 (Estimated NBI: IQD17.1bn, -8% y/y, Operating Profit: IQD11.1bn, -14% y/y, Profit Before Tax: IQD9.3bn, -26% y/y). P&L (Quarterly) – 4Q13 (Estimated NBI: IQD6.0bn, +96% q/q (+12% y/y), Op. Profit: IQD3.1bn, +66% q/q (-1% y/y), Profit Bef. Tax: IQD3.0bn, +71% q/q (-6% y/y).
  • According to the CBI letter published on Feb. 17, 2014, CBI will not ban any bank from FX auctions even if they didn’t reach IQD250bn paid-in capital, because all banks have showed a serious effort to increase their capital. This decision is excluding the banks that have been banned for other reasons. (Please note, CBI didn’t give a list of these banks in the letter. In addition, the target capital set by the CBI for private banks with a deadline of June-end 2013 was IQD250bn.)
  • Iraqi for Seed Production (AISP) will hold its AGM* on Mar. 16, 2014 to discuss 2013 annual financial results, electing new board members, increasing its capital through 15% bonus issue, distributing 50% cash dividend (IQD0.50 price per share) and allocating 15% of the profit to cover the last year’s deficit. ISX will suspend trading of AISP starting on Mar. 9, 2014.
  • Original shares of Babylon Bank (BBAY) will resume trading on Feb. 23, 2014 after the decision to increase its capital from IQD150bn to IQD250bn through 3.18% bonus and 63.48% rights issues. The opening price will be IQD0.77 per share with +/- 50% limit for the first session.
  • Original shares of Mosul Bank (BMFI) resumed trading on Feb. 20, 2014 after the decision to increase its capital from IQD202bn to IQD252.5bn through 25% bonus issue.
  • AL- Batek For Financial Investments (VBAT) will hold its AGM* on Feb. 27, 2014 to discuss 2012 annual financial results, distributing cash dividend and electing new board members. ISX suspended trading of VBAT starting on Feb. 20. Please note, VBAT is trading in non-regular market.
  • New shares of Credit Bank of Iraq (BROI) from the capital increase to IQD250bn through 13.3% bonus and 53.3% rights issues resumed trading on Feb. 19, 2014.
  • Al-Mansour Bank (BMNS) will hold its AGM* on Feb. 25, 2014 to discuss 2013 annual financial results and distributing cash dividend. ISX suspended trading of BMNS starting on Feb. 18, 2014.
  • Original shares of Economy Bank (BEFI) resumed trading on Feb. 18, 2013 after the decision to increase its capital from IQD150bn to IQD250bn through 53.3% rights and 13.3% bonus issues.
  • A cross transaction occurred on IQD4.7bn Kurdistan International Bank (BKUI) shares on Feb. 17, 2014. This represents 1.6% of BKUI capital.
  • Subscription on 100bn Iraqi Middle East Bank (BIME) shares started on Feb. 16, 2014 to increase the capital through rights issue.

Erbil’s IKG Property has issued its Q4 2013 Report which covers Erbil’s Industrial, Retail and Residential markets.

The report gives an overview of each sector, explores the supply and demand dynamics and give a brief snapshot of the serviced apartment sector.

Click here to download the report from our Reports section.

By Michael Carr, Anglo Arab Insurance Brokers (AAIB).

Iraq’s Massive Potential – The Promise from Trade and Investment

The newly appointed Baroness Nicholson as the United Kingdoms Trade Envoy to Iraq underscores the view felt by some senior business interests, that “Iraq has massive potential … the future is very good indeed (and) it’s a tough struggle to get there, but that’s no reason not to be in there to help.

This, from a seasoned UK politician who has wide experience of foreign affairs; economic development in the Middle East, aspects of European union policy and who is the Executive Chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council. She will have been well briefed before taking up her new appointment and can draw upon her knowledge and understanding of the country.

So, what underpins her outlook? Is her optimism justified? No doubt, the country’s strengthening economic position played a factor – Iraq has seen its Gross Domestic Product double since 2003 and the World Bank recorded growth rates of 8% in the past two years. A robust picture on trade and investment flows exists. Further investments and expansion of trade will further drive economic improvements and fuel Iraq’s vibrant economy.

However these can be in tandem with internal structural changes and liberalisation of economic policy and a reduction in the power of state owned enterprises. With the official unemployment rate standing at 17% and with persistent complaints from the business community about corruption and too much bureaucracy and red tape, more needs to be done to reduce these barriers to trade and investment.

Also, as the growth of commerce and trade is inseparable from issues of security and business confidence, and reflects the situation of political stability, these are the areas that must receive continued attention. They are all interlinked and interdependent.

Iraq has achieved impressive economic progress over the last few years, despite the difficulties and setbacks that have happened, and the pressures that its institutions and its people have faced. As Baroness Nicholson has said, “Iraq has massive potential”, but the road to reaching that potential will be a long and difficult one. It’s a road worth taking.

Michael Carr is a consultant specialising in development, risk and insurance in Emerging Markets. He has worked in various conflict and post conflict territories and has written on these subjects for various publications. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of AAIB or Iraq Business News.

Russia’s Gazprom Neft has increased its estimated costs for the Badra oil field to about US $3 billion, reports Bloomberg, citing a bond prospectus recently issued by its parent company.

The company had previously forecast costs at about $2 billion.

The field is being developed by Gazprom as lead partner (30% stake), along with Korea’s KOGAS (22.5%), Malaysia’s Petronas (15%), Turkey’s TPAO (7.5%), and Iraq (25%).

The group is planning to produce 170,000 bpd from the field by 2017, earning a fee of $5.50 a barrel over the 20-year span of the contract.

(Source: Bloomberg)

(Picture: Drilling at Badra — Gazprom)

Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources has taken delivery of seven 55-tonne GT-550E-2 truck cranes from the Japanese company Tadano, via its distributor, United Iraqi Trading Equipment (UITECO).

Manufactured by Tadano’s Beijing manufacturing joint venture BQ-Tadano, the four axle GT-550 features a five section 42 metre boom plus a 8.8 to 15.2 metres bi-fold swingaway that takes maximum tip height to 56 metres. Capacity on the fully extended main boom is eight tonne and it can handle 500kg at a radius of 38.1 metres.

The cranes have been purchased for various departments within Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources with three being sent to the General Commission for Operation of Irrigation & Drainage, two to the General Commission for Groundwater, one to the State Commission for Dams & Reservoirs and the final one to the Department of General Estuary.

(Sources: Vertikal, Tadano)

By Harith Hasan for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The announcement of Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist movement, that he is retiring from politics triggered many reactions from political and popular circles in Iraq, as well as a lot of discussions and speculations about his motives.

For some, the decision put an end to the Sadrist movement as a force in the political process. Others considered his move to be a repeat of earlier similar steps to “retire” or “isolate,” that he soon reversed.

The speech he gave on Feb. 18, two days after his decision to retire, suggests that Sadr’s step was not a complete abandonment of politics, but perhaps a way to reposition himself politically and electorally.

Sadr’s speech was political par excellence. He talked about the failures of the Iraqi political process and sharply criticized Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom he called a dictator and a tyrant. He also criticized parliament, which he considered a weak authority with members seeking personal gains only.

Sadr expressed surprise at the support Maliki is getting from the “East and West,” a reference to Iran and the United States. This may add credibility to reports that Iran is pressuring Shiite politicians to support Maliki for a third term, but it may also mean that he wanted to anticipate such pressure by publicly distancing himself from the block’s decisions, which could be a way to circumvent such pressure in the future.

Sadr justified the decisions to dissolve his political offices and disengage from the Ahrar political bloc by claiming that his goal is to maintain the legacy of the Sadr family and its religious and moral status. This was a sign that Sadr was angered by actions of Sadrist bloc members and by reports of their involvement in financial or political corruption.