UK-based Amarinth has secured its first order from Iraq Gates Contracting Company (IGCC) for $410K of API 610 OH1 pumps on 22-weeks FCA delivery for the Rumaila oil field, Iraq.

This first order for Amarinth from Iraq Gates Contracting Company (IGCC) of $410K is for ten API 610 OH1 condensate transfer pumps with Plan 11 and Plan 52 double seals and seal support systems.

The pumps are destined for the Rumaila oil field, a super-giant oil field located 50km to the west of the city of Basra, southern Iraq. The Rumaila field is estimated to contain 17 billion barrels, the largest oil field ever discovered in Iraq and considered the third largest oil field in the world. It is managed by the Rumaila Operating Organization (ROO), a joint venture between BOC, BP, PetroChina and SOMO.

IGCC approached Amarinth for the ten identical API 610 OH1 pumps as they were required on an extremely short lead time of 22-weeks Free Carriage Aboard (FCA) from the sea-port in the UK.

This is the sort of challenge that Amarinth has successfully delivered against many times in the past for Middle East oil and gas companies and will leave Amarinth just 20 weeks for the design, manufacture and testing of the pumps and seal support systems, including full documentation and NACE certification for all process wetted parts.

Oliver Brigginshaw, Managing Director of Amarinth, commented:

This latest order from Iraq underlines our on-going commitment and investment in the region and we are delighted that IGCC approached us to supply these pumps recognising that we were the only manufacturer that could deliver bespoke API 610 pumps in the lead time they required.

“In fact, we are seeing that many of the new projects in the Middle East need API 610 pumps on very short lead times as operators start to increase production again, which Amarinth are in a very good position to fulfil.

(Source: Amarinth)

By John Lee.

Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi [Allibi, Luiebi] has transferred ownership of nine state-owned oil companies from the Ministry of Oil to the newly-created Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC).

The Minister is also the President of INOC.

The companies transferred to INOC ownership are:

  • Iraqi Oil Exploration Company
  • Iraqi Drilling Company (IDC)
  • State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO)
  • North Oil Company (NOC)
  • Midland (Middle) Oil Company
  • Basra Oil Company (BOC)
  • Dhi Qar Oil Company (DQOC)
  • Missan Oil Company (MCO)
  • Iraqi Oil Tankers Company (IOTC)

IBN Expert Blogger Ahmed Mousa Jiyad has described the new company as “dysfunctional, unconstitutional and disintegrative“.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

The Central Bank is in the process of settling all the assets of its branches in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah

The Central Bank of Iraq announced on Thursday the settlement of all the assets of its branches in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, indicating that credit balances arose when the two branches were linked to the Ministry of Finance in the region.

The bank said in a statement that it was "in the process of settling a new batch of assets of open banks in the branches of the Central Bank / Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, which arose from their cash deposits, while the settlement of amounts originating in the sukuk.

"The bank added that "based on the efforts made by the Central Bank of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, has been in 2017 and 2018 pay large amounts in dinars and dollars to open banks accounts in the branch of the Central Bank / Erbil to settle its credit balances in the branch.

The bank said it was "in the process of distributing new amounts to settle all the funds that were deposited in cash, while later settling the balances that arose over the deposit of the sukuk, although most banks had accepted these instruments contrary to the guidance of the territorial government and branches of the bank / Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

""Credits arose when the two branches were linked to the Ministry of Finance in the region," the bank said.It is noteworthy that the Central Bank of Iraq had cut its relations with the sub-Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, during the past years because they were linked to the Ministry of Finance of the Kurdistan region

as well as the occurrence of some administrative and financial matters that did not live for the Central Bank, and the Central Bank has six branches (Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah And the Middle Euphrates).

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

British Ambassador Jonathan Wilks warned at a press conference last month that, at its current rate of growth, Iraq’s population would increase by a million people per year.

Iraq’s Central Statistical Organization (CSO) announced soon after, on Oct. 1, that the country’s population had reached about 38 million in 2018, and that Baghdad’s population had reached more than 8 million.

While Iraq has not conducted any comprehensive census since 1997, these figures, combined with the rising unemployment rate, indicate an imbalance between the growing population and the availability of services.

Najeh al-Obeidi, an economics researcher at the University of Baghdad, is worried that the state will not be able to respond to population growth or provide decent living conditions for Iraqis. “This raises concerns about the future,” he said. “Baghdad alone has a population equal to that of the entire country five decades ago.

Click here to read the full story.

After five months of political uncertainty, Iraq finally has a new prime minister.

On October 3, Iraq’s newly named president, Barham Salih, picked Adel Abdul Mahdi, an independent Shia politician, to be the next prime minister and form a government. The appointment of Mahdi may have provided an opportunity to calm the protests that have roiled the southern Iraqi city of Basra since July.

Unrest in Basra escalated to levels high enough for the United States to shut its consulate in the city on September 28.

The unrest reflects a changing Iraq—one in which many citizens will no longer tolerate an unaccountable government.

The full article can be viewed here.

(Source: Atlantic Council)


By John Lee.

The Basra Oil Company (BOC) reportedly plans to increase production  from 3.2 to 5 million barrels per day over the next seven years.

According to Platts, BOC directror Ihsan Ismaael told the CWC Basra conference in Istanbul that the increased production would be sustained for at least 20 years after that.

Among the projects being considered are three new subsea pipelines replacing the old pipelines leading to the Khor al-Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) and the al-Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT), adding up to 3 million bpd of new export capacity.

ABOT is currently operating at just under half its capacity of 3.5 million bpd due to the risk of pipeline rupture, while the 350k-bpd KAAOT (pictured) has been offline because of oil leaks when the pipeline is pressurised high enough for loading to be economical.

New pipelines and storage pumping at the Fao terminal would also allow the four installed single point mooring buoys (SPMs) to reach their capacity of 900,000 bpd each — up from about half that now — and potentially add a fifth SPM.

More here from Platts.

(Source: Platts)

Iraq’s Cabinet has named Jabbar al-Luiebi, the current oil minister, to head the new Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC) – giving new momentum to a fundamental restructuring of the country’s oil sector.

Yes, he is the president of the Iraqi National Oil Company,” said Oil Ministry Spokesperson Assem Jihad, in an interview with Iraq Oil Report on the sidelines of the CWC Basra Mega Projects conference in Istanbul. “The company will be in charge of Basra Oil Company, North Oil Company, all of it – more than the ministry.”

More details here from Iraq Oil Report (subscription required)

(Source: Iraq Oil Report)

Iraq is pursuing major infrastructure projects to add millions of barrels per day of export capacity, in an effort to keep pace with ambitious plans to raise production.

In the short term, the Oil Ministry is looking to jump-start work on a long-delayed pipeline contract with the Australian company Leighton Offshore.

Beyond that, Iraq is looking to commission new offshore pipelines and to build an artificial island, the latter of which is likely to be contracted to the Dutch firm Boskalis.

More details here from Iraq Oil Report (subscription required)

(Source: Iraq Oil Report)

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 uncertainty that has prevailed over all economic activity during the last few months is finally coming to an end in a typical Iraqi fashion- extremes of either feast or famine. The parliamentary elections in May, having yielded no clear winner, led to a multi-month paralysis during which the election results were contested in court, subsequently leading to a partial recount of the votes.

Increasing the election anxiety were massive demonstrations in Basra and the southern governorates, where citizens demanded reform and investment into basic services, and the proverbial shaking of the political class by raising fears that they would spread throughout the country. Thoughts on the protest movement and its implications are further discussed in, (The Protest Movement, the Politicians and the Elections).

The end of the uncertainty came in early October with the appointment of a president, and a prime minister in quick succession. This was done at a speed almost unheard of in post-2003 Iraq. While the individuals are two of Iraq’s most accomplished politicians with a lot of promise, the important takeaway is that the process of selecting them broke the mould and ended the political gridlock that bedevilled the country since 2003.

This was a continuation of the effects of the same 2015 protest movement that had such a profound effect on how the elections were fought and their subsequent results. The most visible effect was the fragmentation of the prior ethno-sectarian monolithic blocs that dominated over the past 14 years, the root cause of Iraq’s political and social instability since 2003. It is the end of this gridlock that holds the promise for change in Iraq and with it begins the unlocking of the massive reconstruction drive that lies at the heart of the Iraq investment opportunity.

This is made significantly easier for the upcoming new government as the windfall from higher oil prices (based on the year-to-date average Iraqi oil price of USD 65/bbl) could imply that Iraq would have a two-year cumulative surplus of USD 24.5bn, or the equivalent of a 19% stimulus for non-oil GDP by the end of 2018. Conservative assumptions for Iraqi oil prices for 2019 of USD 59/bbl would imply a further surplus of USD 9.3bn by end of 2019, but if Iraqi oil prices were to remain at the current average price then the 2019 surplus could easily double to USD 18.6bn.

The implications of a three-year cumulative surplus of USD 33.8 – 43.1bn by end 2019 are enormous for Iraq’s ability to plan the funding of the reconstruction and to address the country’s structural imbalances. The assumptions above don’t assume that the current rally in oil prices is sustainable, but that Brent would stabilize at about USD 65-70/bbl from the current USD 84+/bbl (Iraqi oil tends to sell at a discount of USD 5/bbl).

However, this is at least a few months away as the new government is unlikely to be formed before the middle of November and as such would not be able to take any action before year end. Given that, the county is in the mildest of the 40-day Arbaeen pilgrimage, the timing of the new government’s spending programme would coincide with the return of activity following the Arbaeen pilgrimage -hence the earlier reference to the extremes of feast or famine for Iraq’s economy.

The market followed through with its longer-term bottoming process as the July interim bottom continued to be tested this month, in-line with the same trend seen in August and will likely continue for some time. The market, as measured by the Rabee Securities RSISUSD Index was down -4.8% for the month and -10.5% for the year. Average daily turnover declined significantly for the month to the lowest levels (by a wide margin) for a number of years as can be seen from the chart below.

Average daily turnover Index (green) vs RSISUSD Index (red)

(Source: Iraq Stock Exchange, Rabee Securities, Asia Frontier Capital)

The poor market action over the summer months should be seen in the perspective of the low turnover coupled with the continuation of the demonstrations that began in July, the prolonged uncertainty over the governments formation and finally the 40-day Arbaeen pilgrimage that brings the country to a standstill as millions of pilgrims take part in “the largest annual gathering of people anywhere on earth.

However, the low activity was not without fireworks as a sell-off by a foreign investor in Mansour Bank (BMNS) set off a frenzy of trading activity in a replay of the sell-off in the Bank of Baghdad (BBOB), as reported in July’s update “Of Frenzies & Market Bottoms”. At the worst point BMNS, was down -40% for the month and its market capitalization was equal to about 0.5x Book Value, 17% of assets and 22% of cash (based on trailing 12-month numbers). In an exact replay of the events with BBOB, once the position was liquidated locals and some other foreigners bought the stock which sent it up +27% to end the month down -24%, and -10% for the year.

However, the financial position of BMNS during the past few difficult years is almost the mirror opposite of BBOB. BBOB suffered from the same forces that crushed the sector’s earnings, as reviewed in (Of Banks and Budget Surpluses), in addition to its share of company specific issues and structural weaknesses that were exposed by the pains of 2014-2017, including the recent pressure on FX margins. BMNS on the other hand, weathered the storm mostly unscathed as seen below, and in particular it’s in a strong position to reap the rewards of a recovery given its strong deposit growth, low loan/deposit ratio, and low ratio of non-performing loans (NPL’s) to deposits.

As explained “Of Banks and Budget Surpluses”, the banks’ leverage to the economy crushed their earnings. In particular, the double whammy of the ISIS conflict and the collapse in oil prices squeezed government finances as expenses soared while revenues plummeted. The government resorted to dramatic cuts to expenditures by cancelling capital spending and investments which, due to the centrality of its role in the economy, led to year-year declines in non-oil GDP of -3.9%, -9.6% and -8.1% for 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. Ultimately, the government had a cumulative deficit of around USD 41bn during this period and accumulated significant arrears to the private sector in the process.

The same leverage should work in reverse as the potential budget surpluses of USD 33.8 – 43.1bn for 2017-2019 should have a simulative effects on economic activity which ultimately should translate to stronger future earnings for the banks. These were discussed in further details in: “Forget the Donations, Stupid.”

BMNS’ financial performance during the years of conflict can be seen through the three charts below that look at loans/non-performing loans (NPL’s), deposits and trade finance and their association with budget surpluses/deficits. BMNS’ loan and NPL data as supplied by the research team at Rabee Securities is gratefully acknowledged, while other data was taken from the Central Bank of Iraq. Data from 2010-2014 are based on Iraqi accounting standards, while data from 2015-2017 are based on IFRS, and all calculations uses the official USD/IQD exchange rate.

BMNS’ loan book growth peaked in 2015 at the same time that NPL’s peaked. Unlike many other banks in the sector, its loan book was almost flat during 2015-2017 and NPL’s as a percentage of loans declined by almost 50%. At the same time BMNS increased its provisions significantly at almost twice the NPL’s in 2017.

Mansour Bank: Loans & NPL’s 2011-2017

(Source: Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Rabee Research, Asia Frontier Capital (AFC))

Unlike, almost all other banks in the sector, BMNS experienced deposit growth throughout the crisis with growth accelerating during the relative stability in 2017. A flat loan book and sharply increasing deposits resulted in a very low loan/deposit ratio allowing BMNS the opportunity to grow its loans book. Moreover, most of these loans are collateralized by property as most banks’ loans are in Iraq where the norm is for collateral value at 2x the loan.

Mansour Bank: Deposits and Loan/Deposit ratio 2011-2017

(Source: Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Rabee Research, Asia Frontier Capital (AFC))

BMNS’ trade finance declined, however, at much lower rates than those experienced by the sector, while the damage to BMNS’ earnings was mitigated by the relatively small size of the business.

Mansour Bank: Trade Finance 2011-2017

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

It’s logical to conclude that the sea change which has taken place in the government’s financial health would reverse the trends that affected the banking sector’s earnings as the significant stimulus to non-oil GDP should lead to sustainable economic activity which should provide the sector with room to recover. Given BMNS’ strong position relative to other banks, it should have an opportunity to grow much faster than the sector as a whole.

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

The oil-rich port city of Basra is feeling the heat of the intensifying conflict between the United States and Iran. Pro-Iranian armed groups that threaten the United States from time to time are active in the city. The US-Iran tension is expected to affect the economic situation in Iraq in general, and in Basra in particular.

The US State Department announced Sept. 28 its intention to close its consulate in Basra and pull out its diplomats. This comes after three mortar shells targeted the US Consulate there.

On Sept. 29, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Quds Force — a special force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — and its commander Qasem Soleimani of being behind the threats. The United States “will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” he said.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Ahmed Mahmoud)