The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is continuing its life-saving work in Iraq. UNMAS is grateful for the support it received from three generous donors.

The Governments of Belgium (USD 1.6 million), Italy (USD 784,000) and the Slovak Republic (USD 18,750), donated more than USD 2.4 million to ensure that explosive hazard management, training and technical support and risk education activities will advance in 2020.

The presence of explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in areas retaken from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, continues to endanger the lives of women, men, girls and boys and hinder the return of the 1.4 million people who are still unable to go home.

Belgium, Italy and Slovakia recognize that the work of UNMAS is necessary to achieve lasting stability in Iraq. As the United Nations launches the “decade of action” to realize the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the path-clearing work of deminers leads the way for all development in the country. Creating a safe environment enables people to return home, move freely and make productive use of their land.

Mr. Vanden Bulcke, Ambassador of Belgium to Iraq, said:

After Iraq declared victory against Da’esh in 2017, everyone discovered with dismay the exact level of contamination left by the terrorist group in the regions they occupied. The priority of clearing the contaminated rumbles, houses and infrastructures became of national interest for Iraq.

“By supporting the work of UNMAS in mine risk education, clearance and capacity building, Belgium wants to guarantee with its share safe grounds to start reconstructing the country and help the population come back to their houses and their land.

Mr. Michele Morana, Director of AICS Jordan and Iraq, stated:

“The appalling extent of mine-contamination in Iraq, is still producing dreadful consequences on the health and livelihood of the conflict affected communities. Therefore, Italy remains fully engaged in pursuing the objective of a mine free Iraq and in supporting UNMAS endeavour toward such goal”.

Mr. Lubomir Macko, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic in Beirut, added:

Watching the dramatic events unfolding in today’s Iraq we should not forget that many of its people still suffer from the consequences of the conflicts, the main phase of which is already over. Unexploded mines and explosive hazards continue to claim victims among civilians who want to return to their homes and rebuild their lives there.

“That is why UNMAS’s work in Iraq is extremely important and I am glad that the Slovak Republic could support it by a financial contribution. Iraq is one of the main recipients of Slovak humanitarian aid.”

Explosive hazards are found everywhere: in infrastructure, schools, hospitals, homes and under bridges. These deadly items not only hinder reconstruction and stabilization efforts, but also impede the return of displaced communities to some kind of normal life. That is why UNMAS work in Iraq remains critical and we are very grateful for the support received by Belgium, Italy and Slovakia.” said Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager in Iraq.

(Source: UN)

IBBC meetings and dinner for members and guests at the Babylon Hotel, Baghdad on 5th and 6th February

On Wednesday, 5 February, Christophe Michels, Managing Director, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) and Rasmi Al Jabri, Deputy Chairman, IBBC met with Dr Salar Ameen Acting Chairman of National Investment Commission (NIC).

They discussed the longstanding cooperation between the NIC and IBBC and how to deepen it and made plans for a joint Baghdad conference to be held as soon as a new Government is formed.

Later, Mohanad Al Khattab, Baghdad Office Manager, accompanied them to the British Embassy where they met with John Tucknott the Deputy British Ambassador to Iraq.  Beverly Simpson, Director DIT Iraq also attended the meeting. They spoke about the present situation in Iraq and how it affected the business environment and discussed how best to work together in Iraq and in the UK in the month ahead.

In addition to the meetings IBBC held a dinner for its members and guests at the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad on 5th February. The dinner was hosted by Rasmi Al Jabri, Deputy Chairman of IBBC and Christophe Michels, Managing Director of IBBC.

Rasmi Al Jabri is welcoming IBBC members and guests

Rasmi Al Jabri gave an opening speech welcoming everyone and spoke about IBBC’s activities in Iraq and UK. The dinner also attended by Dr Salar Ameen, Chairman of the National Investment Commission, H.E. Dr Luay Al Khateeb, Minister of Electricity, Mr Abdul Aziz Shwan A Ahmed, Chief of Staff of DPM Dr Fouad Hussein and Mr Abdulrazzaq Al-Zuhairi, Chairman of the Iraqi Federation of Chambers of Commerce. IBBC member companies in attendance included Al-Burhan Group, Al-Maseer, ENKA, Eversheds Sutherland, G4S, GE, HHP Law, International Islamic Bank, KPMG, Management Partners, Serco Middle East, Shell, Siemens Iraq, SKA International, Standard Chartered Bank and TurnKey LLC.

Mohanad Al Khattab, Leena Zeyad, Christophe Michels and Rasmi Al Jabri next to evening’s sponsor’s – Sadar Trading Agency display

The evening’s sponsor was Sadar Trading Agencies who displayed their new Range Rover Mild Hybrid Car, Model Year 2020.

The next day the IBBC team visited the offices of International Islamic Bank, HHP Law and Serco at Baghdad air traffic control.

(Source: IBBC)

Advertising Feature

Rabee Securities Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) market report (week ending: 6th February 2020).

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

The RSISX index ended the week at IQD612 (-2.5%) / $652 (-2.5%) (weekly change) (-7.0% and -7.0% YTD change, respectively). The number of week traded shares was 4.0 bn and the weekly trading volume was IQD4.0 bn ($3.3 mn).

ISX Company Announcements

  • The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) / Erbil branch organized a course (International Financial Reporting Standards relating to the banking sector) on Feb 2, 2020. Several private and government bank employees from Baghdad and Kurdistan Region participated in the course, within the series of courses organized by the Center for Banking Studies in the Central Bank of Iraq. (CBI)
  • Within the efforts of the CBI in maintaining the stability of the economic process, the Governor of the CBI Mr. Ali Mohsen Ismail initiated a meeting with the Chairman of the Securities Commission and the Executive Director of the Iraq Stock Exchange and the Executive Director of the Iraqi Private Banks League, to discuss the mechanism for increasing the return on bank shares and improving the circulation of those shares, as well as increased transparency of banks to disclose performance and other recommendations. (CBI)
  • Asiacell (TASC) has reportedly been ranked as the best telecom company in Iraq for 2019 at the International Finance Award ceremony in Dubai. According to a press release on PR Newswire, the award was made for the company’s network quality and the development of its infrastructure. (Iraq Business News)
  • Al Nibal Al Arabya for Money Transfer (MTNI) will hold an AGM on Feb. 25, 2020 to discuss and approve 2018 annual financial statements. The company has been suspended since Sep. 4, 2019 by an ISC decision.
  • AL-Badia for General Trans (SBAG) will hold an AGM on Feb. 19, 2020 to discuss and approve 2015 and 2016 annual financial statements. The company has been suspended from trading since Jul. 6, 2017 by an ISC decision.
  • ISX will suspend trading of Al-Qabedh Islamic Bank for Finance & Investment (BQAB) starting Feb. 13, 2020 due to the AGM that will be held on Feb. 18, 2020 to discuss and approve the financial statements.
  • Iraqi Middle East Investment Bank (BIME) will resume trading on Feb. 9, 2020 after discussing and approving 2017 and 2018 annual financial statements.
  • ISX suspended trading of Credit Bank of Iraq (BROI) starting Feb. 3, 2020 due to the GA that will be held on Feb. 6, 2020 to discuss electing 9 original and alternative board members.

The protection of victims of trafficking in Iraq:

Review of the applicable legal regime and assessment of related practices in the field

IOM recently completed the implementation of a 24-month project entitled “Supporting availability and access to specialized services for victims of trafficking and individuals at risk through the provision of basic assistance and technical support of first responders.”

Funded by the US Government’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, the purpose of the project was to assess protection needs, identify gaps and challenges, and subsequently enhance the protection response for victims of trafficking and populations at risk, in and out of camps, across Iraq.

In this framework, IOM launched a research project aimed at analyzing Iraq’s Law on Trafficking in Persons (Law No. 28 of 2012) and its implementation. The author of the report served as a Legal Analyst within the Protection and Counter-Trafficking Unit of IOM mission in Iraq from May 2019 until August 2019.

The purpose of the consultancy was to analyze the compliance of the law with international standards, in theory, and to the extent of available, in practice. The analysis will aid in understanding how effective the law is in addressing counter-trafficking needs and identify legal and operational gaps in peace time and war time. A thorough review of the Iraqi law and its interplay with other branches of national laws –notably criminal and residency law– was conducted.

The research has also aimed at assessing the extent to which protection is available to victims of trafficking and people at risk of trafficking. It is an essential precondition to the development of effective strategies to contemplate any revisions to the law, rules or regulations, relating to the provision of protection and assistance to victims of trafficking. The report also provides a basis for IOM and other counter-trafficking actors in Iraq to self-reflect and adapt current projects.

Click here to download the full report.

(Source: IOM)

By Alice Bosley and Patricia Letayf, Co-Founders of Five One Labs.

Investing in Iraq: Lessons Learned from 2 Startup Deals in 2019

2019 showed an exciting development for Iraq’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: the investments in two Iraqi tech startups – e-commerce company Miswag, which received investment from Iraq Tech Ventures, and Lezzoo, the first Iraqi startup to join Silicon Valley’s premier accelerator Y Combinator.

In October 2019 Five One Labs hosted its second delegation of regional and international investors to the Kurdistan Region to expand understanding of the Iraqi business environment and startup ecosystem; to build bridges between international and Iraq business communities; and to expose local entrepreneurs to global best practices.

Through conversations with both early- and growth-stage entrepreneurs and discussions with local businesses and government representatives, the group of 17 investors received first-hand information about the business environment and entrepreneurship ecosystem on the ground in Iraq.

We spoke with the investors from the trip and had conversations with Yadgar Merani, co-founder of Lezzoo, and Laura Olivier, Executive Director of Iraq Tech Ventures, to dive into key challenges and opportunities for investment in Iraq, from the investor and entrepreneur perspectives.

Iraq’s lack of market data and challenging regulatory environment make it hard for investors and entrepreneurs to agree on the level of risk and opportunity.

According to Merani, one of the main challenges Lezzoo faced when speaking to investors outside of Iraq was convincing them of the country’s market size and providing them with accurate answers to specific market-sizing questions. Obtaining accurate estimates of the market is of course important for investors as it impacts projections of cash flow and potential valuation.

While data on numbers of pharmacies or schools, for example, are publicly available in other countries, the lack of easily-accessible market data and the reluctance of certain government ministries to provide this data has forced entrepreneurs in Iraq to rely on assumptions when sizing the market. Merani says that while Lezzoo tried to gather this information from various ministries, the team was often told that the information Lezzoo was seeking was either unavailable or confidential.

Additionally, the lack of general understanding of the Iraqi market and the risks of investing in a post-conflict environment mean that entrepreneurs may need to provide potential investors with additional information — and this is a point that has been expressed by a number of Iraqi startups seeking to raise their seed rounds. Merani said that on multiple occasions when trying to raise funds in the US, he was repeatedly asked questions like, “What happens if the internet goes out in the whole country? What would you do?” And this uncertainty or concern over volatility in Iraq may result in lower valuations for startups.

This added scrutiny also extends to the investment itself. The syndicate of investors that invested in Miswag’s seed round (four angel investors and one institutional investor) experienced legal challenges from the outset. When trying to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for Miswag in the financial free zone Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), ADGM repeatedly asked for more documentation given the startup was incorporated in Iraq. After several months, the investors eventually decided to invest directly into Miswag’s bank accounts in Iraq rather than through this SPV.

Olivier of Iraq Tech Ventures also mentioned another challenge:

“One difficulty we experienced recently was that many of the investors’ transfers were heavily delayed due to banks needing extra documentation due to the scrutiny that goes into processing transfers to Iraq.”

However, local and regional investors are willing to put in the work, and entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge.

One of the Five One Labs investor trip participants, Anas Elayyan, said:

“Since inception, iMENA Group has been on the lookout for extraordinary founders and startups operating in under-served markets. The new wave of founders and entrepreneurs that we met in Iraq in the last few months are the real assets for Iraq’s future. Those entrepreneurs have been hustling in the system to mark a new digital era for Iraq. We, at iMENA Group, are very excited to be part of that era.” 

For Miswag, the success of the syndicate’s investment can likely be attributed in part to the fact that the investors were familiar with the market. Four of the five investors were Iraqis who work in Iraq but live outside of the country. Because of their knowledge of the operating environment, they were willing to invest directly rather than establishing an offshore entity.

Both on the investor and entrepreneur side, there are key innovators who are willing to take higher risks in order to show that high-growth startups can be built and grown in Iraq. “There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs in Iraq to take the lead,” Merani says, “because Iraq needs so much.

Looking ahead to 2020, we look forward to seeing more investments in Iraq’s tech startups and to welcoming another delegation of international investors to the Kurdistan Region later this year.

Please click here to download the full report in pdf format.

___________

Five One Labs is a start-up incubator that helps refugees and conflict-affected entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses in the Middle East. Launching first in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we aim to empower individuals to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and to contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

Five One Labs entrepreneurs are provided with training; mentorship by world class entrepreneurs from the USA and the Middle East; and a community of creative changemakers to share their experiences with. 

Our vision is to develop an inclusive network of innovators and entrepreneurs that have the support, skills, and connections to positively change their communities and countries.

DNO ASA, the Norwegian oil and gas operator, today reported interim 2019 revenues of USD 971 million, the highest in the Company’s 48-year history, on the back of acquisitions and a record drilling campaign driving a 28 percent year-on-year increase in Company Working Interest (CWI) production to 104,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd). Net profit last year stood at USD 74 million.

The Company exited 2019 with a cash balance of USD 486 million and USD 145 million in marketable securities.  The cash balance excludes two delayed export payments totaling USD 107 million net to DNO received from the Kurdistan Regional Government in 2020.

In January 2020, DNO completed a buyback program of up to 10 percent of own shares, having acquired 108,381,415 shares at a weighted average price of NOK 10.61 per share (for a total cost of USD 129 million). The Board of Directors has called for an Extraordinary General Meeting later this month to seek shareholder approval to cancel the treasury shares.

The Board of Directors also plans to approve distribution of the next semi-annual dividend of NOK 0.20 per share in March 2020, following which DNO will have returned USD 200 million to shareholders since August 2018.

Last year, the Company delivered its largest ever annual drilling program with 36 wells drilled or spudded across its portfolio, of which 24 were development/infill and 12 exploration/appraisal wells. Planned operational spend (capital and exploration expenditures plus lifting costs) will remain high in 2020 at USD 650 million.

In Kurdistan, gross production from the two fields in the DNO-operated Tawke license climbed to 124,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) in 2019 (87,400 bopd CWI), up from 113,100 bopd in 2018 (79,700 bopd CWI). Average production of 122,800 bopd in the fourth quarter of 2019 was up 3,000 bopd from the previous quarter. In November 2019, the Company reported a discovery in its operated Baeshiqa license, with the well now undergoing a workover prior to resumption of acid stimulation and testing of remaining reservoirs to assess commerciality.

Through acquisition of Faroe Petroleum plc, the Company added North Sea production of 17,400 boepd in 2019. Average production of 19,000 boepd in the fourth quarter of 2019 was up 4,100 boepd from the previous quarter. The Company was awarded 10 licenses in Norway’s Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) 2019 licensing round adding to the 87 licenses already held in Norway and 15 across the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ireland. Of these licenses, 28 are on production (13 fields) and the balance in various stages of evaluation, exploration and development.

The Peshkabir-to-Tawke gas gathering and reinjection project designed to increase oil recovery rates at Tawke while eliminating flaring at Peshkabir will be completed in spring 2020. Once completed, CO2 emissions from DNO’s operated Kurdistan fields are expected to drop to around 7 kilograms per barrel, compared to an industry average of about 9 kilograms per barrel in Norway and about 18 kilograms per barrel globally.

(Source: DNO)

Genel Energy has announced the appointment of David McManus as Chairman with immediate effect.

Sir Michael Fallon (pictured) has been appointed as senior independent Non-Executive Director, and Tolga Bilgin and Hassan Gozal have also been appointed to the Board as Non-Executive Directors.

David McManus has more than 40 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, having held various executive roles at Pioneer Natural Resources, BG Group, ARCO, Ultramar, and Shell. He is currently serving as a Non-Executive Director at Hess Corporation, a large, integrated US oil and gas company; FlexLNG, a Norwegian listed LNG shipping company; and Costain Group PLC, one of the UK’s leading smart infrastructure solutions companies. Previous directorships include Rockhopper Exploration plc and Northern Drilling Limited.

Sir Michael Fallon has 30 years of senior political and business experience, serving in four British Cabinets, and as Non-Executive Director on City and commercial boards. He was MP for Sevenoaks from 1997 to 2019, serving as Energy Minister responsible for the oil and gas sector from 2013 to 2014 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 2014 to 2017.

Sir Michael will act as Senior Independent Director, Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the International Relations Committee. George Rose is remaining at Genel as an independent Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee.

Tolga Bilgin has been CEO of Bilgin Energy Holding, and its subsidiaries, since 2014. Bilgin Energy Holding is a pioneer and a leading Turkish energy firm, that owns, operates and sells electricity from wind, natural gas, and hydroelectric projects, and is a major shareholder of Genel.

Hassan Gozal is Chairman of Daax Corporation, a Dubai based company with investments in a wide range of sectors, notably energy and oil, oil and gas trading, construction, and property development with significant Middle Eastern experience, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Daax Corporation is a major shareholder of Genel.

As a temporary result of these appointments, the majority of the Board (excluding the Chairman) is not independent. It is the intention of the Board to appoint one further independent Director to return to an equal balance of independent versus non-independent Directors as soon as reasonably practicable.

George Rose, Non-Executive Director of Genel, said:

“I am delighted to welcome David to the Board. He has vast experience which will help guide the Company through the next phase in our development, as we build our operating capability and seek material growth. The appointments today bring significant industry and international expertise, with experience of operating, investing, and delivering major projects in the region.”

David McManus, Chairman of Genel, said:

“Genel has built a portfolio with a compelling mix of cash-generation and funded growth options. I look forward to working with the Board as the Company continues to deliver on its strategy, enters an exciting new chapter, and strives to take advantage of the significant opportunities ahead.”

(Source: Genel Energy)

By John Lee.

Erbil and Baghdad have reportedly reached an agreement on Erbil’s contribution to the 2020 federal budget.

According to Reuters, the state news agency INA says the deal includes a transfer of 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the oil-producing region to Iraq’s national budget.

Iraq’s 2020 federal budget is currently under discussion in parliament.

(Source: Reuters)

Duhok will soon have its first solar energy park in a major step towards becoming a low-carbon governorate, setting an example on sustainable renewable energy to follow in Iraq.

On 04 February 2020, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a letter of agreement with the Governorate of Duhok to establish a pilot solar park that will provide a minimum of two megawatts of electricity within two years.

The European Union (EU) provided US$2 million of funding for this project under the UNDP programme “Supporting Recovery and Stability in Iraq through Local Development.

Governor of Duhok, Mr. Farhad Atrushi, said:

Our commitment to take climate action, deliver affordable, clean energy to the citizens and address electricity shortages remains as strong as ever. Under the Duhok Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP), we pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“Establishing the first solar park in Duhok will contribute to achieving this goal and meet the needs of the market. We are grateful to the EU and UNDP for helping to make this happen. We look forward to purposeful partnerships with the private sector for green energy for present and future generations.

Duhok experiences serious deficits in electricity and has over 1000 electricity generators that are causing chronic air and noise pollution. According to the Sustainable Energy Action Plan that was developed under the Local Area Development Programme (LADP II), Duhok foresees the installation of solar parks to provide up to 40 megawatts of clean electricity by 2030.

Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Iraq, H.E. Ambassador Martin Huth, said:

“This intervention will not only improve access to energy for the population in Duhok Governorate but will also ensure that this energy is green. In Europe, we are strongly determined to tackle climate change and succeed in our recently launched green deal, becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. And I am delighted that we are able to support KRI in its own sustainable energy deal”.

Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Ms. Zena Ali-Ahmad, said:

“We are encouraged by the Governorate of Duhok’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and providing green energy to its citizens. Establishing a solar park will stimulate the economy through private sector investments, create more jobs in green economy, and above all reduce pollution. The project will represent the first introduction of solar energy supply on such a scale in Iraq.”

The programme Supporting Recovery and Stability in Iraq through Local Development aims at contributing to the stability and socio-economic development of Iraq by enhancing democratic governance at the local level. It is working to improve the ability of selected governorates to efficiently manage local government and public services.

Economic growth and job creation are prioritized, with a focus on green projects, involving youth and women, in addition to enhancing the living conditions of returnees and in conflict affected areas.

The programme fact sheet can be downloaded through this link: https://bit.ly/2Wlw17e

(Source: UNDP)