KRG Prime Minister Barzani’s statement on the construction of US mission in Erbil:

Mr. Ambassador of the United States to Iraq,
Mr. Consul General
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. I am pleased to be here, with you, today and take part in the announcement of building a new compound for the U.S. Consulate General in the Kurdistan Region. I applaud such a decision and see it as an important step.  I hope that the construction will be completed as planned and on schedule.

The U.S Consulate General in Erbil is considered to be the first consulate to build its own compound in Erbil. This shows the United States’ trust in the promising future of the Kurdistan Region and it is a sign of the United States’ will for strengthening its relations with the Kurdistan Region on the basis of the diplomatic relations that it has with federal Iraq.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relations between the United States and the Kurdistan Region are not new, but they have been formed and strengthened over the years. After the uprising of the people of Kurdistan in 1991, the U.S. and other members of the international community had a major role in introducing a safe haven, which resulted in the protection of the people of the Kurdistan Region.

During the overthrow of Baath regime and later in the fight against ISIS and their defeat, the U.S. continued to improve its relationships with the Kurdistan Region by supporting the stability of the region. Today, as we secured stability, the U.S. is starting to build a new home for its Consulate General in Erbil to continue its already strong relations with the Kurdistan Region and we hope that it will continue to develop strategic and long-term ties with the Region.

The people and the government of the Kurdistan Region highly appreciate the political, military and humanitarian supports provided by the U.S. The Kurdistan Region is eager to further develop strong relationships with the U.S., based on mutual interests in politics, economics, trade, science, culture and other fields. Similarly, the Kurdistan Region is trying to continue to build good relations with neighbouring countries, countries in the region and across the world.

The people of the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistan Regional Government share the same values and principles as the U.S. and the modern world.  They, too, believe in the same values and concepts such as freedom, democracy, human rights, diversity, openness, tolerance, youth and women empowerment and the free market. The Peshmergas fought alongside the American and international coalition forces to protect these values.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate and commend the representative of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Iraq, who came from Baghdad to join us today, for the construction of a new compound for their Consulate in Erbil. I also would like to take this opportunity to thank the former and current American ambassadors and consuls in Baghdad and Erbil for their efforts to improve the relations between the U.S. and the Kurdistan Region.

I would also like to thank the military, USAID teams and all the organizations and agencies from the U.S. that have worked and served in the Kurdistan Region. I commend them and we look forward to enhance the cooperation and collaboration between the United States of America and the Kurdistan Region.

We would like to see all the neighboring countries, countries in the region and across the world, to follow the United States in building diplomatic compounds in the Kurdistan Region, as we strive to build and improve good relations with them within a federal Iraq.
In the end, I wish to see all nations in the world enjoy peace, stability and prosperity.

Thank you and have a good day.

(Source: KRG)

Genel Energy has announced that the Taq Taq partners have received a gross payment of $8.30 million from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for oil sales during January 2018. Genel’s net share of the payment is $4.57 million.

Genel also notes the announcement from DNO ASA, as operator of the Tawke PSC, that the Tawke partners have received $56.44 million from the KRG as payment for January 2018 crude oil deliveries to the export market from the Tawke licence. Genel’s net share of the payment is $14.07 million.

The Company has received an override payment of $7.86 million from the KRG, representing 4.5% of Tawke gross licence revenues for the month of January 2018, as per the terms of the Receivable Settlement Agreement.

In total, Genel’s net share of payments relating to January 2018 exports totals $26.50 million.

(Source: Genel Energy)

Shares in Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP), operator of the Shaikan Field in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, closed up more than 4 percent on Wednesday following the announcement of its results for the year ended 31 December 2017.

Highlights to 31 December 2017 and post reporting period

Operational

  • Strong safety performance during 2017; 3 million man-hours without a Lost Time Incident achieved.
  • Average gross production of 35,298 barrels of oil per day (“bopd”) – in the middle of 32,000-38,000 bopd guidance for the year.
  • Plant uptime of 99% in 2017.
  • Shaikan production for Q1 2018 averaged 31,588 bopd.
  • Gross production guidance for 2018 is set at 27,000-32,000 bopd. 

Financial

  • Signing of the Crude Oil Sales Agreement, which was announced in January 2018, represents a key milestone for the Company.
  • Moved to a more transparent invoicing mechanism with the MNR; payment now linked to international oil price and total production at Shaikan.
  • Profit for the first time since entry to Kurdistan – net profit of $14.1 million (2016: net loss of $17.4 million).
  • Revenue of $172 million (2016: $194 million).
  • The cash component of revenue increased by 28% to $157 million from $122 million in 2016.
  • Positive cash flow driven by steady operating activities, payments from KRG and limited investment.
  • 11 payments received during 2017 from the KRG amounting to $132 million net (2016: $114 million net to GKP).
  • Cash balance of $160 million as at 31 December 2017 (2016: $93 million).
  • Continued cost optimisation, with additional initiatives to lower costs achieved against stable production.
  • Reduction of operating costs per barrel year-on-year to $2.8/bbl (2016: $3.5/bbl).
  • Further reduction of G&A to $21.3 million from $25.5 million in 2016.
  • GKP has received payments in Q1 2018 from the KRG totalling $75.1 million gross ($59.3 million net).
  • Robust financial position as at 10 April 2018, with cash balance of $203 million against $100 million of debt.

Corporate developments

  • Jaap Huijskes assumes the role of Non-Executive Chairman, as of today.
  • Updated KPIs were introduced in 2017, as part of GKP’s continued efforts to achieve high standards of corporate governance.

Outlook

  • The Crude Oil Sales Agreement is an important commercial event and moves the business closer to finalising commercial negotiations with the MNR
  • Subject to finalising certain commercial and contractual matters, the Company is ready to resume investment into Shaikan in 2018.

Jón Ferrier, Gulf Keystone’s Chief Executive Officer, said: 

We are pleased to have reported a net profit for the year of $14.1 million, compared with a net loss of $17.4 million in 2016.  We made considerable commercial progress during the year and into 2018, with the signing of the Shaikan Crude Oil Sales Agreement being a key milestone for the Company. 

“We were pleased to achieve average gross production of 35,298 bopd at Shaikan, in the middle of our target guidance of 32,000-38,000 bopd for 2017.  We are confident that once we are able to restart investment into Shaikan we will be able to lift production towards our near-term target of 55,000 bopd, a step towards the full field development.

“I would like to thank our shareholders for their support, our hosts the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and all Gulf Keystone employees, for their commitment and professionalism during 2017.  I would also like to welcome our incoming new Chairman, Jaap Huijskes, and reiterate our thanks to his predecessor, Keith Lough.

More here.

(Sources: GKP, Yahoo)

In its regular meeting on Wednesday, the Kurdistan Region Council of Ministers discussed and adopted proposed revisions to the salary distribution system, based on funds currently available and projected.

In a press conference after the meeting, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani briefed the media on the revised salary distribution system. He said the KRG fully understands the hardship being faced by those on government payroll and the related negative impact on the economy that has adversely affected many others. He thanked the people of Kurdistan for enduring such financial difficulties.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasized that he fully respects the people’s right to protest peacefully. Violent protest, however, cannot be tolerated and it is the government’s responsibility to handle it with restraint and in accordance to the law.

Minister of Finance and Economy Rebaz Hamlan explained the revised salary distribution system that significantly reduces amounts withheld (saved) from most staff members, pensioners, social welfare beneficiaries, martyrs’ families, and Anfal victims families.
The revision includes monthly salaries of:

  • Up to 400,000 Iraqi dinars – no amount will be withheld
  • 400,000 to 5,000,000 Iraqi dinars – 10 to 30 percent to be withheld
  • Above 5,000,000 Iraqi dinars – 75 percent to be withheld

While the financial situation remains fragile, it is intended that as available funds increase, amounts being withheld will be further reduced. This will occur in accordance with reforms and transparency processes being guided by the international accounting firms Deloitte and Ernst & Young. A draft reform law currently before the Kurdistan Parliament aims toward ending the current withholding (saving) system.

Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs Mahmoud Haji Saleh explained, during the Council of Ministers meeting, that the Iraqi Parliament adopted a resolution favoring families of martyrs, Anfal victims, and political prisoners in the Kurdistan Region with grants and privileges, to be paid by the Iraqi government in accordance with the Constitution, and which the KRG has been working on since 2015.

The KRG Council of Ministers thanked the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and members of the Iraqi Parliament, particularly the members representing Kurdistan Region, who helped pass this resolution.

(Source: KRG)

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

For the first time since 2005, Kirkuk governorate in Iraq will hold elections Dec. 22 to select its local governing council. Parliament included the multiethnic province of the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens in the provincial election law approved March 3.

The decision follows an agreement among the three groups’ representatives in parliament and was greatly welcomed by all segments, especially the Kurds, who for years have demanded that elections be held in Kirkuk. Khalid al-Mafraji, an Arab parliament member from Kirkuk, told Al-Monitor that negotiations took more than a year.

The agreement binds the Independent High Electoral Commission to review voters’ records in coordination with the ministries of Interior, Commerce, Planning and Health. If they aren’t able to review the records before the elections, the commission will be obliged to undertake an audit within six months after the elected council begins its work.

“The most important articles of the agreement relate to sharing power,” Mafraji said. The largest bloc in the election will appoint the governor, and the two deputy positions will go to the other two groups. Moreover, federal positions will be determined by the governorate’s residents, according to party size. The agreement also states that the constitution and the law take precedence over the governorate’s council, parliament and the federal government.

The electoral law will remain in effect for four years. Shakhawan Abdullah, who represents Kirkuk in the Kurdistan Democratic Party in parliament, told Al-Monitor, “The agreement between the three components of Kirkuk’s governorate will be effective for only one electoral round, and the elections will not be held in the same way in four years’ time.”

Abdullah believes the provincial election law presents a good opportunity to resolve conflicts in the governorate and give it more administrative powers, like other governorates. The governorate has gone without elections all these years for various reasons. Oil-rich Kirkuk is a disputed area claimed by both the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil. Its situation is also unique because of its ethnic diversity and disagreements among them.

The constitution stipulates the conflicts in the governorate must be normalized in three stages. The first stage is to allow the return of displaced Kurds and Arabs who emigrated during the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The second stage is to carry out a population census, and the last stage is to hold a general referendum on whether Kirkuk should become a new region, like the autonomous Kurdistan Region, or be annexed to the Kurdistan Region.

All of those procedures were to be carried out before 2007, which wasn’t done. This caused political conflict, partly because of the disagreement between Baghdad and the KRG over having elected authorities with the right to control the governorate’s future.

The Kurdistan independence referendum in September, which included Kirkuk, ended in crisis, and the central government subsequently took over the governorate and cut the Kurds’ authority. The coming elections will give Baghdad and the KRG a chance to solve the current dispute over Kirkuk’s administration.

However, the most important problem that may affect holding elections in Kirkuk is the agreement on a unified record of voters, which may raise doubts about the election results. Iraq hasn’t conducted a census in decades. Ali Khalil, the Arab bloc member of the governorate council, told Al-Monitor that Arabs weren’t in favor of the agreement’s clause that allows an audit to be delayed until after the elections if records can’t be reviewed before then.

“How would we elect a new governorate council while doubting voters’ records at the same time?” Khalil asked.

The Kirkuk local elections will provide a chance to reduce tension in the governorate, a good way to determine the real size of each of the three ethnic groups and a way to form a more legitimate administration — but it could lead to negative results. If one segment is counted and found to have significantly fewer representatives than before, that segment might refuse to accept the election results.

Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) has announced the appointment of Jacobus (“Jaap”) Huijskes as Non-Executive Chairman effective as of 11 April 2018, immediately following the announcement of the Company’s 2017 Full Year Results.  

Jaap Huijskes, who replaces Keith Lough as Chairman, joined the Board of Gulf Keystone in November 2017 as a Non-Executive Director.  Today’s news follows the January 2018 announcement of Mr Lough’s intention to step down from the Board.  Mr Huijskes selection was the result of a process undertaken by the Nominations Committee and was unanimously supported by the Board. 

Jaap Huijskes has had a distinguished career in the oil and gas sector, including relevant experience in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.  He was most recently a Director at OMV (AG:OMV), the largest listed Austrian oil and gas company, where he was responsible for Exploration and Production (E&P) and oversaw the Company’s expansion into new territories.  He also played a key role in OMV’s operations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. 

Prior to this, Mr Huijskes held a number of senior positions at Shell, including Executive Vice President of Upstream Major Projects and Project Director at the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, which was set up to develop the Sakhalin-II oil and gas project in Russia.  He holds a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. 

In addition to serving on the Board of Gulf Keystone, Mr Huijskes is currently Non-Executive Chairman of the Dutch state-owned integrated oil and gas company, Energie Beheer Nederland. He was a member of OMV’s Executive Board for E&P between 2010 and 2016.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Jaap Huijskes, said:

I am delighted to have been selected to take on the Non-Executive Chairman role.  Gulf Keystone has a strong investment case, underpinned by a great asset and management team. 

“With recent positive progress, including the signing of the important Shaikan Crude Oil Sales Agreement, we are looking forward to recommencing investment into the field and generating value for our investors, as well as the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  I look forward to leading the Board and supporting the Company at this exciting time.

“On behalf of the Board and everyone at GKP, I would like to thank Keith Lough for his leadership and significant contribution to the business over the past two years.  It was a challenging period for the Company and we are grateful for his hard work and wise counsel.  We wish him the very best for the future.  

(Source: GKP)

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Pearl Petroleum have signed an agreement to increase production of gas from the Khor Mor field later this year, to boost much needed electricity generation for the people of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole.

The 10-year gas sales agreement will enable gas production from Khor Mor field to increase by 25% later this year, from 320 million cubic feet per day currently to 400 million cubic feet per day.

Dr Ashti Hawrami, KRG Minister of Natural Resources, said:

“We are pleased to see the further commitment of expansion and investment by the companies and the anticipated growth in gas supplies will make a positive contribution to the growing domestic needs for more electricity.”

As part of a final settlement of arbitration in August 2017, Pearl Consortium, which is led by Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas, committed to expanding their investment and operations in the region.

The companies plan a multi-well drilling program in the Khor Mor and Chemchemal fields, as well as installation of new gas processing and liquids extraction facilities. The overall aim is to increase gas production by a further 125% within two years, to 900 million cubic feet per day.

KRG also welcomes Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum’s expansion of their local training and employment programs, as agreed in the arbitration settlement. The companies employ close to 500 full-time local personnel representing over 80% localisation, and have training programmes to increase this figure further.

See also the Dana Gas press release on the Gas sales agreement (external link)

(Source: KRG)

Genel Energy has announced a return to profit.

In its audited results for the year ended 31 December 2017, Murat Özgül (pictured), Chief Executive of Genel, said:

Another year of consistent payments by the KRG and a disciplined capital allocation strategy helped to generate material free cash flow in 2017. This was enhanced in the latter part of the year by the Receivable Settlement Agreement, from which Genel expects to generate sustainable and significant free cash flow going forward.

“The strong financial performance of 2017, and the promise of more to come, facilitated the successful refinancing in December, which solidified a significant improvement in the balance sheet and provides a strong platform for growth.

“We will continue with our strategy of maximising free cash flow as we focus investment on our producing assets, specifically on the Tawke PSC, where the performance of Peshkabir remains highly encouraging. Prudent expenditure will also be made on the other assets within our portfolio that provide material value creation opportunities.

“We will continue to construct the building blocks for value creation from Bina Bawi and Miran, while cost-effectively progressing our exploration assets in Africa.”

Results summary ($ million unless stated)

2017

2016

Production (bopd, working interest)

35,200

53,300

Revenue

228.9

190.7

EBITDAX1

475.5

130.7

  Depreciation and amortisation

(117.4)

(128.9)

  Exploration expense

(1.9)

(815.1)

  Impairment of property, plant and equipment

(58.2)

(218.3)

  Impairment of receivables

(191.3)

Operating profit / (loss)

298.0

(1,222.9)

Cash flow from operating activities

221.0

131.0

Capital expenditure

94.1

61.2

Free cash flow before interest2

141.8

59.1

Cash3

162.0

407.0

Total debt

300.0

674.6

Net debt4

134.8

241.2

Basic EPS (¢ per share)

97.1

(448.6)

1.     EBITDAX is earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation, exploration expense and impairment which is operating profit / (loss) adjusted for the add back of depreciation and amortisation ($117.4 million), exploration expense ($1.9 million) and impairment of property, plant and equipment ($58.2 million)

2.     Free cash flow before interest is net cash generated from operating activities less cash outflow due to purchase of intangible assets and purchase of property, plant and equipment (oil and gas assets only)

3.     Cash reported at 31 December 2017 excludes $18.5 million of restricted cash

4.     Reported debt less cash

Highlights

  • $263 million of cash proceeds received in 2017 (2016: $207 million), with strong free cash flow generation of $142 million (2016: $59 million)
  • Year-end net debt of $135 million, a 44% reduction year-on-year (2016: $241 million)
  • Year-end gross debt of $300 million, a 56% reduction year-on-year (2016: $675 million), with debt extended until 2022 and interest cost reduced by 40%
  • Receivable Settlement Agreement resulted in cash benefit of $26 million in Q4 2017
  • Focused capital allocation – 66% of capital expenditure was spent on cash-generative producing assets, and has been cost recovered
  • Drilling success at Peshkabir, with gross production rising to c.15,000 bopd at year-end
  • Taq Taq field production stabilised in H2 2017, with Q4 average of 14,035 bopd in line with Q3 average of 14,080 bopd
  • In January 2018 Bina Bawi and Miran CPRs confirmed c.45% uplift to gross 2C raw gas resources to 14.8 Tcf

Outlook

  • Combined net production from the Tawke and Taq Taq PSCs during 2018 is expected to be close to Q4 2017 levels of 32,800 bopd, unchanged from previous guidance
  • Genel expects to continue the generation of material free cash flow in 2018
  • Tangible steps to be taken to further de-risk gas resources and unlock value from Bina Bawi and Miran, including the high-value oil resources
  • Capital allocation discipline to continue, with ongoing prioritisation of spend on cash-generative producing assets. Capital expenditure guidance unchanged at c.$95-140 million net to Genel
  • Opex and G&A cash cost guidance unchanged at c.$30 million and c.$15 million respectively

More here.

(Source: Genel Energy)

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Human Rights Office (HRO), within its program of technical support to civil society organizations in the Kurdistan Region, conducted a “Specialized Training on Preparation of the Shadow Report for Treaty Bodies: the CEDAW Convention” in Sulaimaniyah.

Representatives from 21 NGOs in Sulaimaniyah participated in the training, 12 women and nine men. The training develops participants’ skills in collecting and analyzing the required information and data for the preparation of the shadow report for CEDAW Committee.

The due date to submit the shadow report of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was 1 February 2018 but it has not been submitted.

During the opening session, HRO representative Mr. Zito Siany commended the role of civil society organizations in promoting and protecting human rights through their communications with the related human rights treaty bodies.

Ms. Soma Yassin, one of the participants, stated that the training was very useful in producing shadow report for the CEDAW Committee.

“The contribution of NGOs at this stage of the process is essential as it is the best opportunity to ensure that issues of concern to NGOs find their way into the list of issues that can be the focus of the dialogue between the Committee and the State party”, she further said.

The group also intends to prepare shadow reports for Iraq’s next state reports for International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is due in Nov 2018 and Convention Against Torture which is due in August 2019.

(Source: UNAMI)