By Ashley Goodall.

At this challenging time what kind of activities are businesses undertaking in Iraq and how are they doing things differently?

In canvassing Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) members, we found a consistent pattern of adaptation and response across the membership which can be summarized in three headings:

  • Firstly, taking care of staff and looking after their well-being and income. Members recognize that employees are the most valuable element in a business, and for those who wish to sustain their businesses longer term, employee care is top of the list, with regular online calls and management videos to support people working at distance. Ultimately this is good leadership and communications.
  • Secondly, Technical adaptation: in supporting employees and clients, businesses are undertaking various adaptations, mainly the move to work from home and using online technology to enable this. Often, home video conferences and use of Skype/Teams or Zoom are the first time these systems have been used and should well lead to longer term benefits and changes. In this way businesses are becoming more flexible and productive delivering work and client activities.
  • Finally, Communication: those who work with clients are spending more time supporting them online, especially where an intangible service such as Insurance, Banking or Consultancy are concerned. Communicating, regularly and constantly is key to retaining and supporting client business for the short and long term.

One of the most proactive is Sardar Group who tell us:

Due to the present lock down across all the cities we operate in Iraq, all our companies are working from home.

“Business, which was very busy until the 14th March 2020, has suddenly come to a halt and effected all our business big time by stopping all the operations and thereby stopped all turnover.

“To support our employees, we have Group-wide travel restrictions that are updated regularly based on changing conditions and on advice from governments and health ministries. As well as ensuring that we meet all local regulatory authority requirements, we have instituted additional measures such as reduced face-to-face meetings, working from home, split teams and locations, and cancelling or delaying community events.

“We are arranging salary payment to all the employees in regular intervals subject to the governments relaxing the lock downs. Many companies are unable to pay for salaries, but Sardar Group is planning to support our employees for a longer period of time.

John Goering of Constellis says:

“Our primary business in supporting the Oil & Gas industry in southern Iraq continues to function. With our staffing, we have adopted a one in one out system, so the majority of the staff in now are probably in for a bit of a long haul. We are operating at full capacity, but remain flexible to our clients’ needs and dispositions, it’s challenging times for sure!”

Sara Safa Kasim, MD of Al-Maseer Insurance, quotes:

“We are working from home and at a distance – and have put new systems in place to support that. Enjoyably, we are also connecting more with clients to support them at this time.”

Mike Douglas of SKA said:

“We stand firm in the face of adversity and get the job done. These combined challenges just make us more determined to succeed. Fuel supplies are vital to industry, transport and power generation and we will keep them flowing.

“Of note, the vital dredging we just completed during the curfew, guarantees that the biggest cargos on LR2 vessels, are not stalled; before we started, that size of ship had never been seen in the river. The company was built on the motto of “doing difficult jobs in difficult places” and now, more than ever, that is true.’

“We thank all our local and expatriate staff, and the Iraq Government, for their steadfast support and cooperation. We realize that it is not easy to be away from homes and families in these challenging times, but together we will continue to ensure that the Iraqi people get what they need to overcome these daily challenges. We hope and pray that SKA as a company and Iraq as a nation will emerge stronger at the end of all this.

Shehad Khudairi from the Khudairi Group reports:

We are looking into various options such as online ordering and delivery (via Miswag). At the moment, Iraq is essentially shut down, so we are trying to find ways to continue to do business.

“We are communicating internally a lot more and trying to keep morale high in a very uncertain time, via video messages. Additionally, we are trying to keep the employees as safe as possible with our HSE team. Each branch has to report daily on every single touch point of the offices.

“The HSE team is most useful to our business to ensure the safety of our employees. Additionally, being flexible on how we work and our personnel are key to ensuring we are able to ride this out.

Raed Hanna of Mutual Finance, tells of how technology and online communications via Skype and Hangouts are enabling new ways to communicate for them with video conferences and virtual meetings.

Finally, Phil Malem of Serco Middle East says:

Patients in hospitals rely on us now more than ever. We are preparing for peaks in demand and implementing infection screening and control measures across the healthcare facilities we work in.

“Citizens still need to get from A to B and our frontline staff are committed to keeping vital infrastructure operating. Our business continuity planning and workforce management ensures that sickness leaves of absence do not affect the operational efficiency or experience of those using a service.

“Residents should feel like everything possible is being done to protect them and where we operate in real estate or the higher education space, disinfection is a key priority. Escalating cleaning and sanitisation programmes is increasing confidence within the communities across the facilities we support.

“Across all sectors we operate in, it is our responsibility to ensure all staff are educated and trained on good hygiene practice and understand how they can do their bit to limit the spread of this disease. Increased sanitisation programmes across company provided accommodation and transportation have been introduced. Staff health is being monitored daily with various programmes, including temperature checking, which provides an early warning of the onset of any fever related conditions.

The upshot of all this is that challenging times bring out the best of best management practice:

Do the right things and look after and care for your people, as they are your most valuable asset. Find new ways to adapt and communicate with them, deploy new technology, and ensure your communications are working harder to support clients and staff alike.

While times are challenging, it could be a time to upskill, build in resilience and make your business even more productive for the long term. The future will be different.

(Source: Ashley Goodall, IBBC)

Ambassador Stephen Hickey addresses IBBC members via videoconference

Over 50 Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) members yesterday participated in a video conference call with Ambassador Stephen Hickey, from his office in the UK Baghdad Embassy.

The Ambassador updated members on the current situation in Iraq, covering four key areas of interest: COVID 19 response and challenges, The Political landscape and implications for Government , the Economy and impact of oil prices, and Security and how this is impacting on coalition activity in the region.

The Ambassador took questions from a number of members concerned about decision making within Government at this time of uncertainty, the role and support of UKEF regarding on going projects, the role of the dollar and local currencies, the likely nature of a new Government, and the general outlook for Iraq.

Feedback from the Conference suggests videoconferencing will become a regular feature of IBBC activity and reporting, due to the high volume of attendees, and IBBC expect to set up regular calls with Ministers, institutions and officials to engage with members directly and as a group.

(Source: IBBC)

Registration is now open for Tenth Iraq Day at the Mansion House on 30 March 2020

Tenth Iraq Day at The Mansion House

IBBC Spring Conference 2020

‘Iraq – Open for Business’ 

30 March, The Mansion House, London

This could be the year Iraq gets serious about reform and investment. For too long, Iraqi Governments have tinkered with reform, but with the protests, a growing population and a new government forming, there is a head of steam demanding change and jobs for young people.

At this time in response, The IBBC Spring Conference, at the Mansion house, is convening the heavyweight players and institutions of Finance, Energy and Governance to articulate what is required for change. All the more important as a high turnout of Iraqi Minsters and Deputies, and UK officials and politicians are expected to attend and contribute to the debate throughout the morning sessions.

During the afternoon, an interactive series of roundtables addressing University, Tech in Iraq, Women’s Group and a special Kurdistan Investment Forum are convening ahead of a reception at Eversheds Sutherland headquarters. For Iraqi businesses an additional day of hosting by the DIT, BEIS and British Chambers of commerce to engage and showcase British services and products for export.

For companies operating in Iraq or considering the opportunities it offers, then this conference is bringing together many of the key decision makers and drivers of finance and the opportunity to talk directly with the key players including:

BP, Shell, World Bank, Kurdistan Investment Authority, Arab bankers association, Ambassador of Iraq, UK Ambassador, Chevron, JP Morgan, National Bank of Iraq, PwC, Jordan Bank, EY, GSMA, and more confirming soon.

Register here

More information and speakers to be announced in the coming weeks.

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, email london@webuildiraq.org or telephone 020 7222 7100.

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)

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)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBCC) held its Council Meeting, Dinner & Reception for IBBC Members and distinguished guests on 28 January. The Council Meeting, hosted by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, President of IBBC and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan took place in the House of Lords.

Ms Jwan Khioka, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq greets IBBC Members and distinguished guests

The Council Meeting was followed by a Reception & Dinner hosted by Brigadier James Ellery CBE at the Cavalry & Guards Club, where Ms Jwan Khioka, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq greeted more than 40 guests.

After dinner, Dr Heike Harmgart, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) elaborated EBRD’s strategy and business plan for the SEMED region, especially highlighting the business opportunities in the Republic of Iraq.

Dr Heike Harmgart, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), after dinner speaker

The Education, Training and Heritage Sector Table Meeting hosted by IBBC in its London offices on 28th January was attended by representatives from the UK Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, Bath Spa University, the University of Northampton, Stirling Education, UB Holdings, Unihouse Global, the British Council and the IBBC.

The meeting agreed its over-riding objective is to improve education across Iraq, build in-country capacity and facilitate cooperation between Iraq and international, especially UK, universities. The BC confirmed it is continuing to function in Iraq, albeit at a lower activity level with some restrictions to personnel movement. The proposal for senior representatives of UK universities to visit Iraq was well supported, subject to acceptable security, all parties agreed that involvement of relevant ministries in Iraq is essential to  A number of initiatives to encourage Iraq’ entrepreneurs in were presented, including establishing a Tech Hub in Baghdad, run seminars to assist students aiming to study outside Iraq and setting up an alumni network for Iraqi graduates who has studied in UK. It was agreed that the Chevening Programme had been successful and should continue.

A highlight of the meeting was the detailed presentation of Dr Amir Saadati, Strategic Advisor, City & Guilds MENA (Projects) (https://www.cityandguilds.com/) who gave a detailed presentation on the organisations plan to roll out a number of essential training programmes across Iraq in conjunction with IBBC Member Stirling Education.

IBBC Education, Training and Heritage Sector Table Meeting

The Construction and Infrastructure Sector Table met earlier in the day with Jones Lindgren of Perkins and Will in the chair. The main discussion was about current work and opportunities in the water and environment sectors with Brad Moxham of Pell Frischmann and Steve Rowan of Eame, both active in Iraq, leading the discussion.

The IBBC Executive Committee met in the morning of 29th January. The Committee of IBBC Members, reviews IBBCs activities and advises the management of its future planning. After many years of service Alistair Kett of PWC, Hadi Nezir of UB Holding, Hani Akkawi of CCC retired from the committee. The new committee members are John Curtin of EY, Charles Walker of ZHA, Charlie Burbridge of G4S and Sadar Al-Bebany of Sadar Trading Agencies.

IBBC Executive Committee meeting

The Oil & Gas Sector Table Meeting was hosted by IBBC in its London offices On 29th January was attended by representatives from BP, ExxonMobil, SKA, Constellis, Gulftek, Petrofac, Basrah Engineering Group, the UK FCO and the IBBC. There was wide ranging discussion on the current situation in Iraq and its adverse impact on investment in the country, in particular in the oil and gas sector. There was general agreement that more investment is required to maintain current levels of production, and additional investment will be required to increase production and monetise the extensive associated gas reserves currently being flared.

Oil & Gas Sector Table Meeting

The Ambassadors of Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States condemn the excessive and lethal use of force by Iraqi security forces and armed groups since 24 January against peaceful protestors, including in Baghdad, Nasiriya and Basra.

Despite assurances by the government, security forces and armed groups continue to use live fire in these locations, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries of civilians, while some protestors face intimidation and abduction.

The Ambassadors call on the government to respect freedoms of assembly and the right to protest peacefully, as enshrined in Iraq’s constitution, and on all protestors to maintain the peaceful nature of the movement.

The Ambassadors call on the government to guarantee credible investigations and accountability for the over 500 deaths and thousands of injuries of protesters since 1 October.

(Source: British Embassy)

Headquartered in the UK, Abacus Cambridge Partners, a leading consulting, technology, and outsourcing company, has announced a strategic partnership with Deep Engineering, a premier engineering company and a subsidiary of Joto Leading Group, to expand its presence in Northern Iraq by offering digital transformation solutions to the private and public sectors.

Technology plays an increasingly critical role in every aspect of a business. Leaders in the public and private sectors in Northern Iraq recognise the need to accelerate the development of digital solutions to ensure competitiveness.

The Abacus-Deep Engineering partnership brings together extensive skills in business and technology strategy, technology development and deployment, and organisational change management to help transform organisations across Northern Iraq.

Speaking on the signing ceremony, Yu Huang Chan, CEO of Deep Engineering, remarked:

“We think it’s a productive agreement as Iraq is now booming. We are happy to have this partnership with Abacus.”

Abbas Khan, CEO of Abacus, added:

“I am pleased to announce that we have now entered into a strategic framework agreement with Deep Engineering. Through this collaboration, we will be able to create massive opportunities for customers across the region. Our alliance with Deep Engineering is going to result in mutually beneficial outcomes.”

The partnership will play a fundamental role in achieving Iraq’s vision 2030, which is driven by digital transformation.

(Source: Abacus Cambridge)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) is partnering with Innovest as a Bronze-level eco-system partner for the Ruwwad Al Iraq Platform for young Iraqi Entrepreneurs in 2020.

Ruwwad Al Iraq [“Iraqpreneurs”] is a leading empowerment competition platform by INNOVEST Middle East that embraces young entrepreneurs around Iraq and helps them to start or scale up their businesses.

The competition invites participants to submit their innovative ideas or startup business plans in a bid for financial and capacity building prizes that will bring their dreams alive.

Bassam Falah, CEO of Innovest, said:

Our aim is to build communities of innovators in various sectors, to create new partnerships, to solidify individual and collective efforts, to achieve local, regional and global prosperity and to provide sustainable development to the people and community thus fulfilling their aspirations for a more stable, secure and dignified life.

“We Invest in pre speed funding as well as value creation through in-kind support where we provide startups with the access to resources that are important for their scale up.”

Christophe Michels, MD of IBBC, added:

IBBC are delighted to be supporting the development of Innovest’s start up initiative, as tech and entrepreneurialism are both very much in demand within Iraq as a solution for employment for young people and as a means to modernize the Iraqi social and commercial economy. 

“IBBC is keen to work more closely with tech companies and build a modern Iraq through innovation and applications, so we welcome supporting Innovest and its partnerships to realise these opportunities.

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

The US-led coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) has announced the suspension of operations.

In a statement, Operation Inherent Resolve said:

Our first priority is protecting all Coalition personnel committed to the defeat of Daesh. Repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kata’ib Hezbollah have caused the death of Iraqi Security Forces personnel and a U.S. civilian.

“As a result we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops. This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review.

“We remain resolute as partners of the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people that have welcomed us into their country to help defeat ISIS. We remain ready to return our full attention and efforts back to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Daesh.

(Source: Operation Inherent Resolve)