KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani chaired a meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday to discuss implementing best practice for the taxation system of the Kurdistan Region.

The ministers reviewed an internal pilot project tasked with developing a new legal and auditing framework. The framework updates current auditing practices and increases the transparency of the taxation system.

Prime Minister Barzani emphasised his cabinet’s commitment to an ambitious reform agenda, notably tax revenue reform in the Kurdistan Region, which will ensure fair implementation of the system and provide the government with the enhanced enforcement tools.

The cabinet also approved a project designed to improve monitoring and auditing of government and private sector budgets, the facilitation of which will be supported by the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

During the cabinet meeting, the KRG also approved the merging of the High Institute for Audits and Accounting with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, bolstering their research capabilities and raising scientific standards.

Prime Minister Barzani called for everyone to work together to ensure that public property and government vehicles are used in the best interest of the public and in accordance with government rules and regulations.

(Source: KRG)

Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) has issued an operational and corporate update in advance of the Company’s full year 2019 results which are scheduled to be released on 26 March 2020.

Operational

  • Average gross production for 2019 of 32,883 barrels of oil per day (“bopd”), meeting original 2019 gross production guidance.
  • Current production rates from the field at c.40,000 bopd.
  • The side-track to the SH-9 well, designed to assess the gas reinjection potential of the Jurassic formation, reached total depth on 27 December 2019.
  • The SH-9 well is currently being tested. GKP and its partner MOL will then review plans for gas management, in consultation with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
  • In order to optimise the cost and production benefits from the drilling campaign, the sequence of wells will now be SH-L then SH-I, both of which will be drilled from the same pad and will produce into PF-2, which has available processing capacity.
  • The rig is currently being mobilised to drill the SH-L production well.
  • Full oil export from Shaikan via pipeline following commissioning of the PF-1 export line on 10 December 2019.
  • Safety remains a core focus. However, following over 530 Lost Time Incident (“LTI”) free days, an LTI occurred in December as a result of a road traffic accident.

Corporate

  • Cash balance of $192 million as at 20 January 2020.
  • The Company returned value to shareholders by paying dividends of $50 million in 2019 and to date repurchasing c.$35 million of shares out of $50 million in aggregate of share buyback programmes previously announced (with the Company today separately announcing its intention to complete the final $10 million tranche of such programmes).
  • Ian Weatherdon joined the Company on 13 January as Chief Financial Officer and Executive Board member.

Outlook

  • With the continued development of the Shaikan Field, the Company expects to increase average production in 2020 by more than 30% year-on-year to 43,000-48,000 bopd.
  • Debottlenecking and facility upgrades remain on schedule.
  • On track to reach the 55,000 bopd gross production target at Shaikan in Q3 2020.

Jon Ferrier, CEO, commented:

2019 saw GKP continue to realise the benefits of the Company’s recent turn around. In a year in which we returned significant value to shareholders, through both our maiden dividend and share buyback programmes, we also benefited from the increased operational tempo. This resulted in the first steps along the road to a significant production increase from Shaikan, and we are pleased to confirm today that we achieved our original 2019 gross production guidance.

“Looking forward, the pace of the development of Shaikan continues with the drilling and investment in our facilities, in order to deliver our growth trajectory. With a robust balance sheet and confidence in regular payments, we expect to be fully funded for our work programme and continue to return value to shareholders.

(Source: GKP)

By John Lee.

A recently established tote bag factory has reportedly created jobs for 25 women in the Kurdistan Region’s Halabja.

According to Rudaw, the initiative aims to promote alternatives to plastic, and is part of the “Green City Halabja” campaign, run by the NWE NGO and partially funded by the German Consulate and WADI organization.

Click here to read the full story.

(Source: Rudaw)

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

Abdul Mahdi urges Kurds to help rid Iraq of US troops

Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi arrived Jan. 11 in Erbil — his first official visit to the Kurdistan region since taking office — to discuss the country’s stability and the need for Kurdistan to cooperate with a push to expel US forces.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Jan. 8 that Iran will “kick all US forces out of the region” in response to the Jan. 3 killing by US forces of Qasem Soleimani, chief commander of the Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Shares in Genel Energy closed Thursday up more than 4 percent after the company issued the following trading and operations update in advance of the Company’s full-year 2019 results, which are scheduled for release on 17 March 2020. The information contained herein has not been audited and may be subject to further review.

Bill Higgs (pictured), Chief Executive of Genel, said:

2019 was a successful year for Genel, and we continue to deliver on our promises. We increased our highly cash-generative production in line with guidance, paid a material dividend, grew our operating capabilities, and added new assets to the portfolio that will bear fruit in 2020.

“Our ongoing cash generation, with confidence of regular payments and in the security of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, means that it is business as usual and our investment plans are moving forward at pace. This increasing investment in our growth assets is more than covered by expected free cash flow, and will see production diversify and increase as Sarta comes onstream in the summer, with enough remaining to underpin an increase in our already significant dividend.

FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE

  • $317 million of cash proceeds were received in 2019 (2018: $335 million)
  • Capital expenditure of $161 million (2018: $95 million), in line with initial guidance, as spending increased on growth assets
  • Free cash flow (‘FCF’) of $99 million in 2019, pre dividend payment
    • Cash proceeds and FCF were impacted by the non-receipt of $54 million in payments from the Kurdistan Regional Government (‘KRG’) relating to export sales in August and September 2019, due in November and December
    • Pro-forma FCF in 2019 was $153 million (2018: $164 million), or $0.55 per share
  • $26 million of outstanding payments from the KRG, constituting the full amount in respect to export sales in August 2019, has subsequently been received in 2020
  • Dividends of $42 million declared in 2019
    • Maiden dividend of $27 million (10¢ per share) paid in June 2019
    • A further $15 million distributed (5¢ per share) in January 2020
  • Cash of $387 million at 31 December 2019 ($334 million at 31 December 2018)
  • Net cash of $90 million at 31 December 2019 (net cash of $37 million at 30 December 2018)

OPERATING PERFORMANCE

  • 2019 net production averaged 36,250 bopd (2018: 33,690 bopd), in line with guidance and an increase of 8% on the prior year
  • Q4 averaged 35,410 bopd, an increase from 34,720 bopd in Q3
  • 19 new wells were brought onto production in 2019 across all assets
  • Production by asset was as follows:
(bopd) Gross production

2019

Net production

2019

Net production

2018

Tawke PSC 123,940 30,990 28,260
Taq Taq 11,960 5,260 5,430
Total 135,900 36,250 33,690

PRODUCTION ASSETS

  • Tawke PSC (25% working interest)
    • Tawke PSC gross production averaged 123,940 bopd, of which Peshkabir contributed 55,190 bopd
    • Production in Q4 2019 averaged 122,800 bopd, of which Peshkabir contributed 58,910 bopd
    • There will be an active drilling campaign in 2020 on the Tawke field, aiming to minimise decline rates
    • At Peshkabir, the P-12 well is currently appraising the eastern flank of the field, and is set to complete shortly
  • Taq Taq PSC (44% working interest and joint operator)
    • Taq Taq gross field production averaged 11,960 bopd in 2019
    • Production in Q4 2019 averaged 10,703 bopd
    • Following the successful drilling of the TT-34 well, which has now entered production at over 2,000 bopd with 20/64″ choke, production at Taq Taq has averaged c.12,800 bopd in the year to date
    • The latest well on the northern flank of the field, TT-35, spud on 6 January. This completes the drilling programme with the Sakson-605 rig
    • Further activity at Taq Taq is focused on maximising cash generation, with the optimised cost structure and 2020 work programme, which could see up to six wells drilled, under review

PRE-PRODUCTION ASSETS

  • Sarta (30% working interest)
    • Civil construction work at the Sarta field is continuing on schedule, with flowlines laid and buried and foundations in place for oil storage tanks, andGenel expects production to start in the summerof 2020
    • Phase 1A represents a low-cost pilot development of the Mus-Adaiyah reservoirs, designed to recover 2P gross reserves estimated by Genel at 34 MMbbls
    • Unrisked gross mid case resources relating to the Mus-Adaiyah reservoir are estimated by Genel at c.150 MMbbls, with overall unrisked gross P50 resources currently estimated by the Company at c.500 MMbbl
  • Qara Dagh (40% working interest and operator)
    • Civil construction works are progressing in preparation for the upcoming drilling operations, and the well pad and camp are on schedule for completion by the end of January
    • Environmental permits were granted in December 2019
    • The well will test the structural crest 10 km to the north-west of the QD-1 well, which tested sweet, light oil from Cretaceous carbonates
    • The QD-2 well is on track to spud in Q2 2020
    • Unrisked gross mean resources at Qara Dagh are currently estimated by Genel at c.200 MMbbls
  • Bina Bawi (100% working interest and operator)
    • Negotiations between Genel and the Kurdistan Regional Government (‘KRG’) regarding commercial terms for the gas and oil development at Bina Bawi made significant progress in the third quarter of 2019, resulting in an understanding on commercial terms for a staged and integrated oil and gas development being reached
    • Genel is now waiting to receive draft legal agreements reflecting this understanding
    • Genel is continuing the necessary readiness work required to enable rapid progress towards gas and oil developments upon receipt of signed documents
  • Somaliland – SL10B13 block (100% working interest and operator)
    • A farm-out process relating to this highly prospective block began in Q4 2019, with Stellar Energy Advisors appointed to run the process. A number of companies are now assessing the opportunity
    • Genel plans to conclude the farm-out process in H1 2020, aiming to minimise the cost to the Company of a well that could be spud in 2021
  • Morocco – Sidi Moussa block (75% working interest and operator)
    • The farm-out campaign is set to begin in Q2 2020, aimed at bringing a partner onto the licence prior to considering further commitments

ESG

  • Safety remains a priority for the Company, and our focus on this has led to zero lost time incidents (‘LTI’) and zero losses of primary containment in 2019 at Genel operations
    • There has not been an LTI since 2015, with over 11 million hours worked since the last incident
  • The operator of the Tawke PSC expects routine flaring to be eliminated on the licence in March 2020, with gas from the Peshkabir field set to be reinjected into the Tawke field in order to improve long-term reserves recovery
  • The search for a permanent Chairman is well progressed

OUTLOOK AND 2020 GUIDANCE

  • Net production in 2020 is expected to be close to Q4 2019 levels of 35,410 bopd, with an exit rate c.10% higher than this due to the expected addition of production from Sarta
    • Genel expects to drill over 20 producing wells in 2020
  • 2020 capital expenditure is expected to be $160-200 million, of which $120-150 million will be cost recoverable spend on assets on production in 2020. Other spend includes:
    • c.$35-40 million on the Qara Dagh 2 well
    • Under $10 million maintenance expenditure at Bina Bawi and Miran. Capital expenditure expectations for Bina Bawi in 2020 will be updated once legal agreements with the KRG have been signed
    • Under $2 million on African exploration assets
  • Operating costs per barrel expected to be $3/bbl, amongst the lowest in the industry
  • Opex: c.$40 million
  • G&A: c.$15 million
  • The Company expects full recovery of outstanding payments in Q1, and for regular payments to resume, as they had since September 2015
  • The Company continues to actively pursue growth and is analysing numerous opportunities to make value-accretive additions to the portfolio, but will only proceed with opportunities that fit our strict strategic criteria
  • Genel expects to generate c.$100 million in free cash flow, pre-dividend payments, in 2020
    • Given the ongoing strength of cash generation, confidence in the regularity of payments from the KRG, and the positive outlook for the Company, Genel reaffirms its commitment to growing the dividend

(Source: Genel Energy)

KRG cabinet discusses reform agenda and public-private partnerships

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the cabinet to discuss the Kurdistan Regional Government’s ambitious reform agenda and the implementation of public-private partnerships.

Prime Minister Barzani welcomed the cabinet’s support for the government’s reforms, which will provide more fairness and transparency concerning the reorganisation of public sector salaries and pensions.

The cabinet prepared clarifications that will be sent to the Kurdistan Parliament, as its members review reforms of entitlements relating to the families of martyrs and political prisoners.

The cabinet also discussed how public-private partnerships might be utilised in modernisation projects. Prime Minister Barzani expressed his support for a pilot project, and requested that the Ministry of Planning examines it in more detail, to assess whether this project is in the best interests of the Kurdistani peoples.

(Source: KRG)

Genel Energy has announce an update on activity at the Taq Taq field (Genel 44% working interest), as testing of the TT-34 well is nearing completion.

The well has produced from all zones tested, at a maximum combined flow rate of over 3,900 bopd with 28/64″ choke. With the inclusion of test production, gross production from the Taq Taq field is currently c.13,650 bopd.

Individual zone testing is now underway, which will determine the long-term production strategy. Genel expects the well to be placed on production around the middle of January with an initial flow rate of 1,500-2,000 bopd.

The rig has moved to drill the TT-35 well, also on the northern flank of the field, which is now preparing to spud.

(Source: Genel)

By John Lee.

Chevron has reportedly removed all of its American oil workers from Iraqi Kurdistan as a security precaution, following the killing of Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The company currently has interests in the Sarta and Qara Dagh blocks.

(Sources: Reuters, CNN)

By John Lee.

Court filings in the United States have reportedly shed new light on corruption in Iraq.

Louis Auge, of EU Reporter, writes that two members of Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) recieved houses in London in return for their role in the expropriation of over $800 million from French telecom firm Orange and Kuwaiti logistics company Agility.

The companies had initially invested the money in Kurdistan-based mobile phone operator Korek, via a joint venture.

More here.

(Source: EU Reporter)

The first ever Leading Brands Iraq award ceremony was hosted at Rotana Hotel Erbil, Iraq.

Popular brands of consumer goods in Iraq have received their awards in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Iraqi central government and the KRG, delegates of leading brands as well as academics and media. Kurdmax TV recorded the event co-sponsored by Al Sharqiya TV and Rudaw TV. Ms Kazhan Abdul served as event presenter.

In his opening speech, LBI Advisory Board Chairman Prof Dr Ibrahim Sirkeci (Regent’s University London) presented the aims and methodology of LBI highlighting growth opportunities in Iraq and sharing statistics on the country.

The consortium organising the Leading Brands Iraq event is led by ScorePR while Nish Research Iraq has been running regular consumer surveys and market analysis. The leading brands were solely determined by analysis of survey data while the technical team behind has used robust statistical techniques in preparing rankings and sector based reports.

Ministerial speeches were given by Dr Ammar Saadun, representative of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, and by adviser on economic relations Mr Fathi Mudaris, representative of the KRG Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Well known academics and experts from the UK delivered keynote speeches reflecting on branding and brand building processes. Prof. Finola Kerrigan (University of Birmingham) emphasised the importance of heritage in brand building while Dr. Phil Clements discussed the potential of Erbil as a location in respect to MICE, the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions sector.

LBI Project Director Dr. Sinan Zeyneloglu announced the SCORE points of Leading Brands in each category. International brands as well as local brands from Iraq and the KRI have achieved leading brand status for entire Iraq as well as for Kurdistan separately in the categories given below:

Carbonated Beverage
Chocolate
Cooking Oil
GSM Operator
Home Appliances
Laundry Detergent
Mobile Phone
Paper Towel
Powdered Milk
Queshta
Sanitary Pad
Shampoo
Soap
Tea
Toilet Paper
Tomato Paste
TV

Representatives of companies achieving leading brand status were excited and supportive of the organisation on and off the stage.

A full list of leading brands as well as pictures of the event can be seen at http://leadingbrandsiraq.com/en/pages/lbi-2019

A 10-min summary video of the event is posted on https://youtu.be/VOm5EMYKplg

(Source: Leading Brands Iraq)