By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Building a successful business means delivering what you promise.

When I recently needed to go to Baghdad at short notice, I remembered a conversation I had with Abir Burhan, Operations Director of Al-Burhan Group: “Any time you want to go to Iraq,” he said, “we can take care of your visa, flights, accommodation and security – just give me a call.”

So I did, and a few days later I was on a plane from London Gatwick to Baghdad with Iraqi Airways, booked via IKB Travel; conveniently, a direct flight, which saves the time and trouble of getting a connecting flight somewhere else.

Staying at the Al-Burhan Centre, just minutes from the terminal building at Baghdad International Airport, was also very convenient, and probably the most secure location in Baghdad, situated as it is within the heavily guarded airport complex.

While in Iraq, I (and my family!) also needed to know that I’d be safe when travelling about in the capital; Gethin Wilson, Operations Manager at Al-Burhan Security, and his highly professional team, ensured that I was always where I needed to be, on time and in total safety.

But it’s not just about convenience and security. The success of the Al-Burhan Centre owes as much to the friendliness and hospitality of its people as it does to their efficiency and professionalism.

These factors are even more important for those staying long-term. Many of the guests at the Al-Burhan Centre are ex-pats, staying on rotations that can last weeks or months at a time, so it’s important not only that that they feel safe, but also that they are well catered for and enjoy their time at the centre.

George Mansour and his staff really understand that excellent food and a comfortable and friendly environment are essential for well-being, morale and productivity. And despite all the good food, there’s no excuse for putting on weight, as the centre even has two gyms to help work off the calories.

The al-Burhan family have created a real home from home, and take seriously the sign in their office: “Only promise what you can deliver.





By John Lee.

At its regular meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday, the Iraqi Cabinet received a briefing on negotiations led by Iraq’s Ministry of Oil with ExxonMobil and PetroChina on the Southern Iraq Integrated Project.

In a statement, the government describes the project as “a mega energy and infrastructure scheme consisting of building oil pipelines, storage facilities and a seawater supply project to inject water from the Gulf into reservoirs to increase oil production and Iraq’s export capacity.”

According to Reuters, Iraq is close to signing the $53-billion, 30-year agreement, from which it expects to make $400 billion over the life of the project.

It quotes the Prime Minister as saying that it will involve increasing production at the Nahr Bin Umar and Artawi oilfields from around 125,000 barrels per day (bpd) now to 500,000 bpd.

(Sources: Iraqi Cabinet, Reuters)

By John Lee.

President Barham Salih has highlighted the need to address the obstacles impeding the work of the private sector in Iraq.

Addressing a delegation from the Iraqi Federation of Chambers of Commerce at his Office in Baghdad, the President stressed the importance of enhancing the role of the private sector in reconstruction.

Mr. Abdul Razzaq al-Zuhairi, the Head of the Federation, said he valued the President’s support for the private sector.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held Iraq’s first International Tech Conference in Baghdad at the Babylon Rotana Baghdad Hotel on 30 April, hosting government ministers, private industry, entrepreneurs, investors, and representatives from the leading UK and Iraq Tech companies.

The purpose of the Conference was to drive confidence, investment and awareness of the power of the new tech economy and how it can benefit Iraq.

The event – Iraq Tech Conference – was led by Ashley Goodall, IBBC’s Marketing Adviser. Keynote addresses were given by H.E. Dr Sami Al Araji, Chairman of the National Investment Commission and Mr Ashraf Al Dahan, Chairman of the CMC Board of Commissioners.

The agenda for the day comprised four panels: Consumer Tech panel, E-Government Panel, Business Fintech and a Consumer Fintech Panel.

Fintech in particular is making strides forward with the blessing of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), as Mr Waleed Eidi, Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank, explained and encouraged the adoption of steps to include Women, those excluded from banking and the digital economy and young people.

The CBI is being ambitious in encouraging banks and financial institutions to modernise and offer new ways to distribute the flow of funds for investment and those who need it. This will also have a big impact on the overall economy and growth.

Ahmed Elkady of EY echoed the importance of Fintech as he led the Consumer FinTech Panel discussion onto technical infrastructure and what needs to happen to grow the opportunity for financial transactions. He was ably supported by National Bank of Iraq’s Eyad Mahmoud and Roger Abboud of Arab Payment Systems – who are modernising banking transactions – and Douglas Way of Almaseer Insurance – who are enabling business to reduce risks and transact insurance products rapidly and scalably.

The conference also embodied eight presentations:

  • “How technology is driving the business and consumer world in Iraq and Internationally” by Zain Iraq;
  • Online Literacy” by Dr Victoria Lindsay, Country Director – Iraq for the British Council;
  • Automating & digitising BP and Iraq” by Zaid Elyaseri, Country Manager-Iraq for BP;
  • Restrata Product Announcement” by Botan Osman, CEO for Restrata;
  • “Five One Labs” by Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Five One Labs;
  • Blockchain and AI – The Future Talk” by Muhana Almrahleh, Director – Head of Information Technology Advisory for KPMG (Jordan); and,
  • How Re:Coded are Training the Next Generation of Technology Leaders in Iraq” by Zahra Shah, Country Manager-Iraq for Re:Coded.

Attendees were able to enjoy one-to-one meetings and conversations.

As part of the Tech Conference on April 30, IBBC hosted an Evening Reception for Entrepreneurs and Start-ups at The Station, Baghdad, the evening prior on 29 April. The evening, planned in partnership with Iraq Tech Ventures and Arabnet, showcased the growing tech community in the country and gave an outstanding platform for some of the leading start-ups and entrepreneurs in a more informal setting.

The participating start-ups pitched their business in 5 minutes to a panel of seven judges composed by: Mohammed Khudairi, Managing Partner of Khudairi Group and Founder of Iraq Tech Ventures; Hal Miran, CEO of MSelect and Founder of Bite.Tech and TechHub; Richard Greer, Venture Capital Investor in Asia, Middle East, & UK and Philanthropist in Northern Iraq; Zahra Shah, Iraq Country Manager for Re:Coded; Ali Ismail, Co-Founder of Fikraspace and Co-Founder & Partner of Solo Creative Studio; Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Five One Labs and Maryam Allami, Advisor for Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Through this first international Tech Conference in Iraq, IBBC aims to provide a foundation, a platform and focus for Tech in Iraq and give inspiration and confidence to those building a modern Iraq.

For more information on the Iraq Britain Business Council, visit our website at https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/

To contact IBBC for Interviews, registration and sponsorship please contact london@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

The Iranian defense minister called for the enhancement of military and defense cooperation with Iraq, saying collaboration between the two neighbors would serve regional security and stability.

In a meeting with a delegation of Iraqi military commanders, Brigadier General Amir Hatami said the common threats and opportunities necessitate closer consultations between Tehran and Baghdad for protecting the interests of the two nations and ensuring regional security and stability.

Highlighting Iran’s contribution to stability and safety of Iraq, the general said the Iranian and Iraqi forces’ devotion guarantees security in both countries, adding that Iraq would have disintegrated without steadfast cooperation between the two neighbors.

Defense cooperation between Iran and Iraq results in balance, peace, stability and security in the region, General Hatami stated, adding that the two sides are determined to broaden ties.

In a meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, Commander of Iraq’s Navy Major General Ahmed Jasim Maarij and Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri discussed enhancing military cooperation and holding joint naval programs between the two neighbors.

In July 2017, Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to boost military cooperation in a host of fields, including counterterrorism.

Based on the deal, Tehran and Baghdad try to promote interaction and share experiences in the fight against terrorism and extremism, work together to ensure border security, and provide each other with training and logistical, technical and military support.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Farhad Alaaldin for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

It has been six months since Baghdad formed its new government, and no major political crises have arisen. For Iraq, this is unheard of. This could be the result of the president, prime minister and parliament speaker working in harmony.

But as summer approaches, so do three potential problems: Basra’s urgent need for a reliable source of electricity, a growing opposition bloc in parliament and Baghdad’s contentious relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Many political pundits predict a tough summer ahead, one similar to last summer and its deadly unrest in Basra, when demonstrations erupted over the pitiful lack of basic services such as water and electricity, and many government and political party headquarters in the city were burned down.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Christian Lindgren)

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, CIO of Asia Frontier Capital (AFC) Iraq Fund.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The market, as measured by the Rabee Securities RSISUSD Index, increased by +2.5% in April, bringing the YTD decline to -11.8%. Average daily turnover, excluding block transactions, declined -32% from the prior month, and at 60% of the average turnover for the last 12 months, is the second lowest for the period. Foreign selling, the cause of the last few weeks’ declines, seems to have exhausted itself (chart below) and in the process prices lifted higher.

(Source: Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX), Asia Frontier Capital)

The early signs of the return of the liquidity to the real economy, reported here over the last few months, are becoming more convincing as the healing effects of increasing oil revenues are continuing to filter down into the broader economy. The continued recovery in broad money, i.e. M2 as a proxy for economic activity, is adding to this conviction due to its sensitivity to oil revenues (chart below)- given the central role of government’s spending on non-oil economic activity.

(Source: Central Bank of Iraq, Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Asia Frontier Capital)

(Note: M2 as of Jan with AFC est.’s for Feb & Mar; Oil revenues as of Mar with AFC est.’s for Apr)

Driving this recovery in M2 has been the growth of monetary base, or M0, which in turn has been based on the growth in one its two main components “Iraqi Dinar (IQD) current account (C/A) component of banks’ reserves with the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI)” as can be seen in the chart below. The recovery of this component of M0 is a direct result of the growth of customer deposits (consumers, businesses and government) held with banks.

(Source: Central Bank of Iraq, Asia Frontier Capital)

(Note: M0 as of Mar, IQD C/A component of bank’s reserves as of late Apr)

The estimated increase in M2 (prior chart) for March is based on recent M2/M0 multiplier figures and actual increases in M0 for the month. Persistent growth as of late April in IQD Current Account component of banks’ reserves with the CBI (a function of sustained growth in customer deposits with banks) is an early indicator for a continued recovery of M0 and hence in M2 in April (above chart). However, more data over the next few months is needed to establish if this trend is sustainable.

Supporting this growth in customers deposits are the 2018 results for the Bank of Baghdad (BBOB) which showed the first year-over-year growth in customer deposits following their peak in 2014. While BBOB’s year-over-year deposit growth at +5.2% is a far cry from the +25.8% growth reported by the Bank of Mansour (BMN), never-the-less, it was a function of corporate customers deposit growth. Moreover, BBOB’s provision expenses decreased contributing to an overall decline in total provisions (ex-income tax) of -2.3%. Combined they indicates that the macro forces which contributed to BMNS’s recovery, as discussed last month, are spreading to the sector as a whole and should therefore create the conditions for a recovery in the sector.

However, BBOB doesn’t enjoy the same financial strength as BMNS, which is a function of BBOB’s heady expansion during the boom years up to 2014, which among other things resulted in a large loan book relative to other banks, and hence exposure to riskier loans. Growth for BBOB took a back seat while management’s focus over the last few years was on addressing the company specific issues and structural weaknesses that were exposed by the pains of 2014-2017, including the crush in FX margins witnessed in 2018. This can be seen through the other metrics for BBOB in that while its assets and equity increased by +2.1% and +0.2% respectively in 2018 over 2017, its loan book and interest income declined by -4.7% and -38.0% respectively. The decline in its interest income was made worse by the decline in interest earned from government bonds and deposits with the CBI. BBOB’s challenges during the years of contraction were explored here in August.

Finally, mobile operator AsiaCell (TASC) leverage to the economic recovery was confirmed by its continued confidence in its future outlook with a distribution of a 12% dividend. This comes on the back of last year’s 12% dividend and the prior year’s 14% dividend.

The continued signs of economic recovery, mixed as they are in as this early stage, underscore the opportunity to acquire attractive assets that have yet to discount a sustainable economic recovery. On the other hand, the market’s recovery in April on low turnover suggest that a long consolidation and a significant recovery in turnover are needed before it can embark on the next move.

Please click here to download Ahmed Tabaqchali’s full report in pdf format.

Mr Tabaqchali (@AMTabaqchali) is the CIO of the AFC Iraq Fund, and is an experienced capital markets professional with over 25 years’ experience in US and MENA markets. He is a non-resident Fellow at the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS), and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at AUIS. He is a board member of the Credit Bank of Iraq.

His comments, opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any fund or security or to adopt any investment strategy. It does not constitute legal or tax or investment advice. The information provided in this material is compiled from sources that are believed to be reliable, but no guarantee is made of its correctness, is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding Iraq, the region, market or investment.

By Amberin Zaman for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Energy tops agenda of Turkish FM’s meetings in Iraq

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Iraqi Kurdish leaders recently on the last leg of an ambitious visit to Iraq, in which the Turkish diplomat unveiled plans to reopen consulates in Mosul and Basra and to establish new ones in Kirkuk and Najaf.

Cavusoglu also announced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would pay a formal visit to Iraq before the year’s end.

The timing of the two-day tour, which took Cavusoglu from Baghdad to Basra and finally Erbil, prompted speculation that Turkey was turning to its oil-rich neighbor for help after the US administration announced it was ending waivers that allowed a clutch of countries including Turkey to continue buying oil from Iran effective May 2.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The US government has reportedly launched a $5 million-program for airport security in Iraq.

Kurdistan 24 quotes US Chargé d’Affaires Joey Hood as saying:

“Airports are gateways to the world. This cooperative program will not only improve passenger safety for the Iraqi people, but will bolster Iraq’s ability to attract foreign investors, expand global trade linkages, and encourage economic growth.”

The program will provide training and equipment in close coordination with experts at the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA).

The ICAA, Baghdad International Airport, Basrah International Airport, and Erbil International Airport have already met to discuss implementation of the program.

(Source: Kurdistan 24)

Advertising Feature

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 2nd May 2019).

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

The RSISX index ended the week at IQD586 (+0.2%) / $630 (+0.2%) (weekly change) (-11.2% and -11.3% YTD change, respectively). The number of week traded shares was 1.5 bn and the weekly trading volume was IQD1.1 bn ($0.9 mn).

ISX Company Announcements

  • Iraqi Carton Manufactories (IICM) will hold an AGM* on May. 9, 2019 to discuss and approve 2016 annual financial results. The company has been suspended from trading since Aug. 6, 2017 due to not disclosing 2016 and 2017 annual financial results.
  • Asiacell (TASC) invited its shareholders to receive their cash dividend (100% cash dividend, 12.2% dividend yield) starting May 2, 2019.
  • ISX suspended trading of Kurdistan International Islamic Bank (BKUI) starting Apr. 29, 2019 due to the GA that will be held on May. 4, 2019 to elect 4 original and 7 alternative board members. The bank will resume trading on May. 5, 2019.