DNO ASA, the Norwegian oil and gas operator, has completed the private placement of USD 400 million of new, five-year senior unsecured bonds with a coupon rate of 8.375 percent.

The bond placement received strong investor demand across international markets and was oversubscribed.

The bond issue is expected to be settled on or about 29 May 2019, subject to customary conditions precedent.

An application will be made for the bonds to be listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. In connection with the bond placement, the Company has agreed to buy back USD 60 million in nominal value of DNO01 bonds (ISIN NO 0010740392) at 104.16 percent of par plus accrued interest and USD 10 million in nominal value of FAPE01 bonds originally issued by Faroe Petroleum plc in 2017 (ISIN NO 0010811268) at 107.50 percent of par plus accrued interest.

In addition to partial refinancing of the DNO01 and FAPE01 bonds, net proceeds from the new bond issue will be used for general corporate purposes.

Danske Bank and Pareto Securities AS acted as joint lead managers and bookrunners with SpareBank 1 Markets AS as co-manager and bookrunner.

(Source: DNO)

(Picture: Bonds, from Alexskopje/Shutterstock)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

For much of Iraq’s recent history, the trend has been for educated and talented Iraqis to leave the country, and for Iraq to use its oil revenues to import the expertise it needs.

But that’s changing; to at least some extent, the Iraqi diaspora is returning, innovative home-grown Iraqi businesses are being created, and some are even exporting their goods and services abroad.

One prime example is Arab Payment Services (APS), which I visited on a recent trip to Baghdad. Founded by Ziad Khalaf in 2013, the company now employs 100 people, many of them Iraqis who have returned from overseas with new skills and experience.

The company provides a range of banking-related services, including ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) devices, and payment processing. In this business, proper security is essential. General Manager Haider Alobaidi, who has been with the company from the start, explained:

“Our processes all comply with international standards, such as PCI DSS [Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard] — our reputation depends on flawless execution, so there is no room for error.”

In a country so reliant on cash, is there really a need for such a business? “Most definitely“, says Roger Abhoud, Advisor to the Chairman:

“The demographics are all in our favour. Forty million people, 83 percent of them without bank accounts, increasing by one million people each year — more and more of those people want access to the sorts of services that we can provide, and that trend can only continue. It’s a huge opportunity!”

His vision doesn’t end there. APS has just opened an office in Dubai, and plans to expand internationally.

This is a new and positive phenomenon for Iraq, and one that will provide welcome opportunities in the years ahead.

By John Lee.

Standard Chartered bank is reportedly reviving stalled plans to open a new branch for corporate customers in Basra in the first half of 2020.

This would be the UK-based bank’s third branch in Iraq.

Its Iraq CEO Mohammed Jawad Al-Delaimy told Bloomberg:

“Security in Iraq has improved dramatically … We have witnessed international companies decreasing their security requirements and risk levels.”

He added that profits in Iraq have been increasing since 2014, and said the bank plans to sign financing deals worth about $500 million for electricity projects by early next year.

More here.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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)

By John Lee.

Pearl Petroleum is reportedly planning to raise additional funding for its drilling and development in Iraqi Kurdistan,

According to Reuters, Patrick Allman-Ward, the chief executive of Dana Gas, which is the majority owner of Pearl Petroleum, told reporters that the funding will “comprise a mix of bank debt, a bond, Exim bank financing as well as contractor and vendor financing.

The company is developing that Khor Mor and Chemchemal gas fields in Iraqi Kurdistan.

(Source: Reuters)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

More than 100 guests gathered at the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad on Tuesday to attend Iraq’s first Tech Conference.

Hosted by the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) and chaired by Ashley Goodall, the event brought together the leading companies involved in the technology sector in Iraq to discuss how the power of the tech economy can benefit the country.

Among the many speakers and contributors during the day, Mohammed Khudairi of Iraq Tech Ventures emphasised the need to create the right environment for innovative companies, adding:

“We want to create a cluster of inovation as they’ve done in San Francisco, as they’ve done in London, and in many other places around the world; Iraq has the skillset, the talent and the motivation to make this happen, and has a great path ahead of it over the coming years.”

Patricia Letayf of Five One Labs discussed the changes they’re working to bring about in Iraq:

“When you hear the word “Iraq” we want you to think of start-ups and innovation … we want Iraq to be a focal point and a competitive business environment.”

According to Mohammed al Hakim, of Careem Iraq:

“There is no lack of human capital in Iraq — there is a lack of investment in human capital in Iraq.”

The event, along with the Start-Up Championship the previous evening, forged connections between people from various disciplines and locations, and will doubtless be a starting point for many of tomorrow’s success stories.

 

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By Veronica Cotdemiey, CEO of Citizenship Invest.

6 questions you must ask when obtaining a second citizenship

Citizenship programs offer people a chance to obtain a second powerful nationality that allows them freedom of movement and security for their families, as well as a better way to safekeep their businesses and wealth.

However, many people decide to apply for these programs without carefully understanding the fine print. There are important aspects to each particular Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program understanding them can mean the difference between a citizenship approval or a rejection.

Below are some of the key points to be taken into account when choosing a citizenship program.

Have you ever been rejected visas before?

This may be the most important question to ask before embarking on a citizenship application process. If your citizenship consultant does not bring up this question, consider changing consultancy firms as soon as possible. Any past visa rejections are a primary concern for governments with CBI programs and the application will result in a rejection.   The governments will deny the citizenship if the due diligence reveals that the applicant had been rejected entry to any country which shares visa waver agreements with that particular CBI country, especially when it comes to UK and Schengen states.

What family members can you include under your application?

Including dependents is common, however, it is imperative that applicants know who they can include under the same application. Your citizenship consultant needs to be well versed when it comes to including family dependents. Lack of knowledge in this area can have consequences and will ultimately result in delays and extra money which can be avoided with proper advice.

Dependents are children, spouse and parents of the main applicant or of the spouse who are financially dependent on the main applicant. Children must be enrolled in full time studies and proof financial dependency on the parents. Currently, only one CBI program accepts siblings of the main applicant or the spouse, these are unmarried brothers or sisters regardless of their age.  These unmarried siblings cannot be previously divorced and cannot have children in order to qualify under the same application.

Each CBI program sets its own regulations for adding dependents. The citizenship consultant should be requesting information on the ages of the children and parents, as each program has different requirements. The date of birth of the applicant is important as, at the moment of applying, they should not surpass the minimum age by law. Also, they should find out whether the main applicant is planning to have kids in the future, because some programs such as St. Lucia do not contemplate including newborns after the citizenship has been issued.

Is your nationality banned from applying for the selected program? 

There are specific nationalities that are barred from applying for some citizenship via investment programs. For instance, St. Kitts and Nevis does not allow nationals of North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan to apply for its program. Therefore, applicants need to understand what the options are for them. Other programs do not restrict any nationalities in particular and take applications in a case by case basis, the results will purely depend on the main applicant’s source of funds and a clean track record.

What are your future travel plans?

Each country has a unique visa-free list which can help applicants narrow down the different programs of choice. Consequently, when looking for the correct CBI program, one should know which country they will be visiting frequently. For example, Grenada is the only country with a CBI program that allows visa-free access to China. So, if an individual has business in China, they might want to apply for the Grenadian citizenship. Furthermore, a Grenadian passport allows visa-on-arrival to the UAE, which is a great option for individuals who have business in the UAE.

If to live in Europe is a priority, then Cyprus is the best option that any investor can look for. Upon obtaining a Cypriot nationality, applicants will be able to live in any country part of the EU. They will also have access to world-class education and healthcare. Cyprus also grants visa-free access to over 170 countries including Canada, Australia, UK and the UAE.

Most CBI programs allow visa-free access to the Schengen states except for the Turkish citizenship.

What are the main documents required?

Mainly each submitted file requires applicants to present basic documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of address and medical examination. These documents can be quite easy to obtain but difficulties start when obtaining Police Clearance from their country of origin, their country of residence and any country they have resided in for 6 months in the last 10 years.

Understandably, many applicants cannot obtain police reports as their home countries are troubled with political distress, so they must provide an affidavit, which is a legal document that clearly justifies the reason for not being able to obtain the police report. However, not all CBI countries accept affidavits, which in this case an applicant is required to present a local lawyer’s reference letter that explains the reasons for not being able to obtain the police report from a particular country.

What financial information is required?

Primarily, the source of funds is the most crucial aspect of the application. The applicant can have clean criminal records but if the source of funds is dubious their citizenship will not be approved. One of the Government’s main concern when conducting the due diligence process is knowing how the applicant has generated his or her money and support documents must be presented justifying the same.

Once the due diligence report is concluded, the applicant needs to make the final payment to the Government. It is imperative that the applicant makes the payment from his own bank account or his company’s bank account not from a third party.

Bank transfers can be a complicated process nowadays, especially if the intermediary banks are in the United States. The citizenship consultancy company would need to liaise with the beneficiary bank in order to present the required documents for the funds to be cleared.

When applying for citizenship it is important to do exhaustive research on the citizenship processing companies, before you chose, and carefully investigate their track record. There are a lot of options on the internet, even some of them are listed on Governments websites, however very few of these have thorough experience in overcoming the challenges that a citizenship application can present.

Top Mountain LLC hosted the first annual Business Canvas Erbil conference which was attended by 120 participants and took place in the Dedeman hotel.

The conference was funded by the European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through GIZ.

The event was also sponsored by GroFin Iraq, a financing organization that provides loans of up to $2 million to SMEs in Iraq.

The goal of the conference was to inform the audience about the future of economic development in the Kurdistan Region and promote the services of Top Mountain Business Incubator.

Throughout the conference, speakers and panelists reviewed the challenges and opportunities related to the job market and entrepreneurship.

During his presentation on the future of the startup ecosystem in Iraq, one of the Co-founders of Top Mountain explained that within the next few years startups in Iraq will begin to rapidly multiply and grow as financing and technical skills become more widely available.

This predication is based on the rapid growth in startups that has occurred throughout the MENA region over the last 3 years. Some of the key conclusions reached by panelist and speakers are that companies in Iraq must expand their internship programs to help train the next generation of skilled workers.

Panelists also noted that lack of access to finance is the most critical challenge to SME growth. Despite the challenges facing businesses in Iraq, most of the attendees and panelists remain optimistic and anticipate a bright future for Iraq’s economy.

(Source: Top Mountain LLC)

The IBBC (Iraq Britain Business Council) is launching a Tech Conference in Baghdad on 29th and 30th April.

The Conference is showcasing leading Iraqi and International companies with the intention of building confidence for Tech initiatives within Iraq.

Iraq is at a pivotal point in its development as it revives and rebuilds its infrastructure, so now is an ideal time to review the opportunity that modernisation and tech could bring to the country. IBBC is keen to support modernisation and its benefits, and to share what we have learned in the UK.

With political leadership, a positive investment climate and the talent and interest among young people and the right educational skills, tech can take off in Iraq, in the way it has in the UK.

The conference aims to showcase the best tech companies in Iraq, to give confidence and support to those on the way up and to change perceptions about the country and encourage investment.

IBBC Marketing Consultant Ashley Goodall says:

“We believe that Technological applications can enable Iraq to become more productive and efficient and a drive for transparency, a mechanism for government payments, a means to interact with citizens, and a source of new employment opportunities for young people.”

Christophe Michels Managing Director of IBBC says:

“We are all excited about the prospect of holding this prestigious event for IBBC members, the Tech Community and the wider people of Iraq. We hope and expect it will have an impact on all audiences to encourage a more rapid uptake of technological expertise, skills, and investment in Iraq.”

Leading Iraqi companies include: Almaseer Insurance, Inspire Solutions, Zain Telecom, Careem, Switch, Media World, Zain Pay, National Bank of Iraq, KRG, Onyxes, Re:coded, Five One Labs, Khudairi Group, Iraq Tech ventures, Arabnet, Central Bank of Iraq and many international groups such as BP, PWC, EY Iraq, KPMG, Finastra and many more. The Governor of Central Bank of Iraq kindly confirmed his attendance.

IBBC want to provide a platform and focus for Tech in Iraq and give inspiration and confidence to those building a modern Iraq. Come and join the new wave and help modernise Iraq.

The IBBC Tech Conference is taking place in Baghdad, the Babylon Hotel on 30th April with an Entrepreneurs event on 29th April.

For information and registration https://www.ibbctechconference.org/

To register to Entrepreneurs event on 29th April: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/startup-battle-baghdad-tickets-60109360716

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 IBBC (Iraq Britain Business Council) is launching a Tech Conference in Baghdad on 29th and 30th April.

The Conference is showcasing leading Iraqi and International companies with the intention of building confidence for Tech initiatives within Iraq.

Iraq is at a pivotal point in its development as it revives and rebuilds its infrastructure, so now is an ideal time to review the opportunity that modernisation and tech could bring to the country. IBBC is keen to support modernisation and its benefits, and to share what we have learned in the UK.

With political leadership, a positive investment climate and the talent and interest among young people and the right educational skills, tech can take off in Iraq, in the way it has in the UK.

The conference aims to showcase the best tech companies in Iraq, to give confidence and support to those on the way up and to change perceptions about the country and encourage investment.

IBBC Marketing Consultant Ashley Goodall says:

“We believe that Technological applications can enable Iraq to become more productive and efficient and a drive for transparency, a mechanism for government payments, a means to interact with citizens, and a source of new employment opportunities for young people.”

Christophe Michels Managing Director of IBBC says:

“We are all excited about the prospect of holding this prestigious event for IBBC members, the Tech Community and the wider people of Iraq. We hope and expect it will have an impact on all audiences to encourage a more rapid uptake of technological expertise, skills, and investment in Iraq.”

Leading Iraqi companies include: Almaseer Insurance, Inspire Solutions, Zain Telecom, Careem, Switch, Media World, Zain Pay, National Bank of Iraq, KRG, Onyxes, Re:coded, Five One Labs, Khudairi Group, Iraq Tech ventures, Arabnet, Central Bank of Iraq and many international groups such as BP, PWC, EY Iraq, KPMG, Finastra and many more. The Governor of Central Bank of Iraq kindly confirmed his attendance.

IBBC want to provide a platform and focus for Tech in Iraq and give inspiration and confidence to those building a modern Iraq. Come and join the new wave and help modernise Iraq.

The IBBC Tech Conference is taking place in Baghdad, the Babylon Hotel on 30th April with an Entrepreneurs event on 29th April.

For information and registration https://www.ibbctechconference.org/

To register to Entrepreneurs event on 29th April: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/startup-battle-baghdad-tickets-60109360716

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)