IBBC hosts largest ever Spring Conference

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) hosted the largest attendance for their Spring conference at the Mansion house on 24th May, with just under 300 attendees, half of whom came from Iraq.

Widely considered a success, the overall theme was 'sustaining economic growth in Iraq', There were multiple panels and roundtable sessions; including four panels focused on Finance and Energy, and additional themes of Education and Skills, Future Tech, Privatisation and a Kurdish ministerial roundtable with full attendance at all.

The conference was opened by Baroness Nicholson, president of IBBC.

Notable speakers included the Governor of the central bank H.E Mr. Mustafa Ghalib Mukheef, the Governor of Kirkuk, H.E. Mr Rakan Aljoubouri, the Chairman of the Trade Bank of Iraq, Dr Salem Chalabi and H.E. Dr Dara Rasheed, Minister of Planning, Kurdish Regional Government, and Mr Louis Taylor, CEO of UKEF, while Lord Howell gave an insightful and powerful speech on energy provision and the continuing importance of oil and gas distribution and production, especially in the light of Russian aggression. Professor Frank Gunter offered his paper for privatisation to a packed room. Dr Luay Al Khateeb, Distinguished Fellow Columbia University, chaired the Energy Transition session alongside with panellist from BP, Shell, GE and Oilserv.

The Rasmi AL Jabri award to the most outstanding, well run, professional Iraqi company engaged with the UK and international business from Iraq, was awarded to The Sardar Group and accepted by Mr Sardar Al Bebany from Rasmi's son and Baroness Nicholson.

Delegates came from all regions of Iraq, including KRI, Basra and Baghdad, with chambers of commerce, leading Iraqi businesses, and private investors and business- people engaged and supplying IBBC corporate members.

Principal sponsors included the Iraq private banking league, who brought 20 banking members, gold sponsors - The Sardar Group and Hydro C and Bronze sponsors - GE.

The Conference was also made available online and a recording of the Tech forum is available here.

(Source: IBBC)

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Meet Top Iraqi Officials at IBBC Conference

Hear Iraq's principal ministers and financiers share their vision and policies for Energy, Finance and Educational sectors at IBBC's Mansion House conference on 24th May.

Iraq is on the cusp of forming a new Government and is benefitting from high oil revenues and stability. The IBBC Spring conference is ideally timed for a potential new Government announcement with key players in both oil and finance speaking and sharing their vision of what policies and the future landscape lies in store for Iraq and the private sector.

Iraq is clearly open for business, and we can expect to hear strong indicators of where the economy and investment will be directed and how banks and government expect to achieve this.

Addressing the new government agenda of reforms, we have a panel dedicated to the Iraqi Government White paper, led by Dr Alaa, the executive director or the Prime Minister's reform unit.

It is also expected that the Minister of Oil will announce several investment opportunities that will be discussed in a separate session after the energy panel during the afternoon

This is your opportunity to meet these confirmed speakers: the Minister of Oil H.E. Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismaael, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, H.E Mr. Mustafa Ghalib Mukheef, Ms Taif Sami, Deputy Minister of finance, the Minister of youth and sport H.E. Adnan Darjal Motar Al-Rubaye, and higher education, as well as a Dr Salem Chalabi, President & Chairman of the Trade Bank of Iraq and a delegation of Iraqi private banks. In addition, key IBBC members including BP country director Zaid Elysari, Shell, Total, GE, Siemens, KBR, SKA, Serco, Petronor and Petrofac, PWC, EY, Standard Chartered Bank, JP Morgan, TBI, SAP, Barclays, City and Guilds among many, and from the UK Government Mr Louis Taylor, director of UKEF are attending.

The overall theme will examine how Iraq can sustain economic growth going forward, through the significant speaker energy, finance and Insurance panels who will discuss this at length.

New topics include privatisation of state-owned enterprises at a round table discussion led by Prof. Frank Gunter with the participation of the Prime Minister's Office, additionally, a special paper on the subject written by members of the IBBC Advisory Council will be launched on the day and form the backdrop of the discussion.

Panels on project finance and energy transition are included during the day.

Beyond these topics many companies will find ample opportunity to meet the key speakers, as well as network with large businesses in Iraq and UK during the conference and in separate sessions. IBBC constantly advocates for the opportunity of private business to change economies and this conference confirms the benefits business brings to Iraq.

Economic sustainability is not just confined to energy and finance sectors as the knock-on effect of an expanding economy is creating big demand for skilled employees across all sectors, an issue that will be addressed by the educational panel including MSelect, who's Iraq employment report has shed great light on the unprecedented nature of skills and sectoral requirements and how they might be addressed.

IBBC are very proud to be holding, possibly our best conference and we hope those companies' operating in Iraq and considering joining our council, will attend at this time of opportunity and evolution for Iraq's economy to meet the people who are shaping its future.

Click here to register.

(Source: IBBC)

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Iraq’s Economic Update — April 2022

Iraq's economy is gradually recovering from the twin shocks of the pandemic and collapse in oil prices in 2020. Both oil and non-oil growth are on track to reach their pre-pandemic levels as oil production increases and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions restores domestic economic activity.

Fiscal and external deficits are back to surpluses as oil prices continue to surge. Growth in the medium term is projected to be driven by the oil sector as OPEC+ production cuts are phased out. The outlook remains subject to significant risks including uncertainties relating to the impact of geopolitical tensions, the ongoing pandemic, security challenges, and climate change.

Recent Developments

Iraq's economy is gradually rebounding following the deep economic strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. Real GDP is estimated to have edged up by 1.3% in 2021, after a sharp contraction of 11.3% in 2020. The rebound was mainly driven by the non-oil sector which grew by 6% in 9 months of 2021-2021 year-on-year (y/y), underpinned by a strong performance of the high contact sectors including transport, accommodation, and retail sectors.

However, agriculture and construction contracted by 17.5% and 36.8% respectively, following severe droughts, energy outages, and the rising global price of inputs. In 9M-2021, oil GDP contracted by 4%(y/y) as Iraq adjusted its oil production as per the OPEC+ agreement. Headline and core inflation edged up to an average of 6% and 6.6%(y/y) in 2021, respectively, following the 23% devaluation in December of 2020 and the gradual recovery in domestic demand.

Outlook

The turnaround in oil markets has significantly improved Iraq's economic outlook in the medium term. Overall growth in 2022 is now forecast at 8.9% as OPEC+ quotas end and Iraq's production surpasses its pre-pandemic level of 4.6 mbpd. Growth in the outer years is projected to remain modest at 3.7% on average as oil production moderates.

Non-oil GDP growth is projected to converge to its long-term potential growth trend in part aided by higher investments that would be financed through the oil windfall. However, growth is forecast to remain constrained by the economy's limited absorptive capacity and other inefficiencies.

Click here to download the full report.

(Source: World Bank)

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IBBC Iraq Conference, London, Tuesday 24th May 

The IBBC Iraq conference at the Mansion House - meeting at a most important time for Iraq - Tuesday 24 May 

After a two-year absence, IBBC is back at the Mansion House hosting its Iraq conference on Tuesday May 24th focusing on finance, energy and sustaining economic growth in Iraq.

The country stands at another pivotal moment with a new government still in formation, record high oil and gas prices and a world supply crisis, in recovery mode after the pandemic and a strong desire to diversify the economy, grow the private sector and improve employment prospects, particularly for the young, a possible Iranian / US nuclear settlement, issues over water supply and food production, diversifying into renewable energy  and still much work to be done on repairing and renewing infrastructure, but progress being made on improving governance and hugely enhanced government revenue to provide business opportunities across all the sectors.

International interest in investing in Iraq remains strong with the Chinese (Rumaila) and French (Total) Governments being particularly aggressive and most recently a wish expressed by the Saudi Government to join them.

In each sector we are hosting influential Iraqi ministerial attendees including the Minister of Oil H.E. Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismaael and Mr Kareem Hatta Deputy Oil Minister for Upstream Affairs, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, H.E Mr. Mustafa Ghalib Mukheef, the Minister of Youth and Sport H.E. Adnan Darjal Motar Al-Rubaye, as well as Ms Taif Al-Shakarchi, Deputy Minister of Finance , Dr Salem Chalabi, President & Chairman of the Trade Bank of Iraq, a delegation of Iraqi Private banks.

From the UK side Louis Taylor, Chief Executive of UKEF, UK Ambassador Mark Bryson- Richardson, BP President Iraq Zaid Elyaseri, and Richard Wilkins from JP Morgan will address the audience with latest developments and opportunities and Professor Frank Gunter will present his latest views on the political economy.

Principal panel subjects include developing the banking sector, project finance, energy transition and how to boost short term production, education and skills, insurance, in addition to an online Tech panel addressing the benefits of crypto currency.

For companies interested in Iraq, this is a prime opportunity to hear what some of the most important players, both government and private sector are saying and thinking, and an excellent place for networking with potential partners and customers from both national and international organisations.

For further information and to register - please follow the link below:

IBBC Spring Conference at the Mansion House, London - IBBC (iraqbritainbusiness.org)

A reminder to overseas attendees, to arrange for visas to UK within the next few days as is relevant for your country.

(Source: Iraq Britain Business Council)

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Russian Invasion of Ukraine, and Iraq’s Economy

By Salam Zidane for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Russian invasion of Ukraine has sharp impact on Iraq's economy

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused shortages of food in Iraq and forced the government to pay more in gasoline subsidies, but the high price of crude oil plus sanctions on Russia has opened new opportunities for Iraq.

Click here to read the full article.

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IBBC meets with Saudi Iraqi Business Council in Riyadh

From the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC):

Baroness Nicholson and Christophe Michels led a 30-strong delegation of IBBC Members to Riyadh to meet with Members of the Saudi Iraqi Business Council.

The high profile meeting of Members of both Councils met under the auspices of the Saudi Minister of Commerce at the head quarters of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce.

Mr Mohammed Al Khorayef, Chairman of SIBC presided over a 3 hour seminar at which 10 different IBBC member companies presented and discussed challenges and opportunities in doing business in Iraq. Mr AlKhorayef and Baroness Nicholson gave opening addresses on behalf of their respective organisations and attendees also heard short presentations from the Saudi Foreign Investment Authority and the Export Finance Authority.

The seminar was followed by an extensive networking Lunch.

The Saudi Minister of Commerce hosted members of both councils for dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The dinner was attended by the Governor of the Saudi Investment Authority, the Chairman of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and other senior Saudi officials.

Both sides voted this first meeting a huge success which allowed for ample business to business meetings and the exchange of valuable experiences and information. Baroness Nicholson highlighted the important role IBBC can play in a triangular relationship between Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Britain. Christophe Michels emphasised the depth and knowledge of IBBC and its members, having worked in Iraq since 2009 if not longer and the willingness of IBBC Members to do business with their Saudi Companies in Iraq, but also in Saudi Arabia.

The meeting concluded with an invitation to SIBC members to attend the IBBC Spring Conference at The Mansion House in London on 24th May.

Christophe Michels stated that this was a first historic visit to Saudi Arabia for IBBC and that he was confident that IBBC and SIBC will build on it to further strong cooperation between their members in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. He added that today in Iraq business to business relationships really mattered and would lead to substantial measurable outcomes.

The IBBC delegation included, Mr Zaid Elyaseri, President of BP Iraq, Mr Sardar Al Bebany, Chairman of Sardar Group, Mr Mohammed Delaimy, CEO of SCB Iraq, Mr Ismail Maraqa, Chairman of PWC Middle East, Mr Khalil Nezir, Director of UB Holding, Mrs Sarah Akbar, MD of Oilserv, Mr Stuart Mackay, Corporate Development Director at G4S Risk Management, Mr Jaber Aljaberi, CEO of AA Global Trading Company, Ms Hadeel Hasan, Managing Partner of Al Hadeel Al Hasan LLC; Mr Khalil Al Salem, Deputy CEO of Al Majal; Mr Anmar Al-Gharifi, Partner, Saudi Arabia of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP, Mr Amar Shubar, Partner of Management Partners, Mr Hamed Silmi of Martrade Shipping & Logistics, Mr Hal Miran, Founding CEO of MSELECT, Mr Yaser Al Abbadi, Head of Business at NB of Iraq, National Bank of Iraq / Capital Bank and Mr Zeid Barghouti, NBI- Head of Treasury, Invest & FI, National Bank of Iraq / Capital Bank, Mr Faisal AlTamimi, Senior Associate- Business Development, PwC, Ms Leena Zeyad, Group BOD Administration Manager of Sardar Trading Agencies, Mr Habib Bitar, CEO of TBI Saudi Arabia and Mr Hussam Chakouf, Senior Associate of Zaha Hadid Architects, and was joined by IBBCs GCC Representative Mr Vikas Handa, Mr Richard Cotton, Commercial Advisor and Professor Mohammed Al Uzri, Health and Education Advisor.

On Saturday 26th March, our hosts organised visits to Riyadh Fort, now fully refurbished to its original state, the site now designated as the place where the modern Saudi state began in 1902 and to the Saudi National Museum, which records in fabulous settings, the geology, the history of the country over centuries, and the large diversity of cultures across the country.

On the evening of Sunday 27th March, the Trade Bank of Iraq in Saudi CEO Habib Bitar kindly hosted a dinner for the IBBC delegates who were able to exchange ideas with senior bank officials and other distinguished Saudi guests.

(Source: IBBC)

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Tabaqchali, Market Review: Oil and the Iraqi Economy

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, Chief Strategist of AFC Iraq Fund.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Market Review: "Oil and the Economy"

The market, as measured by the Rabee Securities RSISX USD Index, increased by 4.5%, and 8.8% for the year. Average daily turnover on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) declined for the second month in a row and is currently at the lower end of the levels that prevailed over the last twelve months.

On a positive note, the Rabee Securities RSISX USD Index has reclaimed the upper-end of the uptrend that it established over the last two years (chart below) - a promising development that is in contrast to that of many markets worldwide.

(Source: Iraq Stock Exchange, Rabee Securities, AFC Research, data as February 28th)

Among the index's constituents, lower-priced Gulf Commercial Bank (BGUC) was up 20.0% for the month, far ahead of the other nine constituents. The next best performing constituent was Bank of Baghdad (BBOB) up 4.7%, followed by Baghdad Soft Drinks (IBSD) up 4.4%, Asiacell (TASC) up 3.3%, the National Bank of Iraq (BNOI) up 2.6%, and Al-Mansour Bank (BMNS) up 2.0%, while the Commercial Bank of Iraq (BCOI) was flat. Decliners were led by Al-Mansour Pharmaceutical Industries (IMAP) which was down 6.5%, followed by National Chemical and Plastics Industries (INCP) down 2.0%, and Kharkh Tour Amusement City (SKTA) which was down 0.3%.

Excluding BGUC, these modest stock price performances for the month haven't yet reflected the increased bounty brought by high oil prices taking Iraq's oil sales to an all-time high for a fifth consecutive month (chart below). The country's high leverage to oil prices and hence to oil sales will have significant positives for both the economy, and the equity market down the line - as a result of the centrality of the government's oil fuelled spending to the economy.

(Source: Ministry of Oil, AFC Research, data as of February 28th)

There is a great deal of fear built into oil's current prices, and as such they are unlikely to be sustainable for too long, yet the changed geopolitical landscape as a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine will have significant consequences for the supply and demand of oil. On the demand side, the limited disruptions brought by the Omicron variant on economic activity worldwide since its emergence has solidified market expectations that oil demand in 2022 will return to pre-COVID-19 levels seen in 2019 - there is no reason, at least for now, to expect meaningful change to these expectations following the Ukraine invasion.

However, the same market expectations that supply will itself, like demand, return to its pre-COVID-19 levels will likely be re-examined in light of the pressures that the OPEC+ group will be under in the new changed world order. Prior to the events leading to the current crisis, OPEC+'s plan was to fully unwind by September 2022 the production cuts agreed to in April 2020. However, over the last few months, the plan was facing difficulties as some members of OPEC+ were struggling to return to pre-COVID-19 production levels.

A situation will likely worsen given the wide scope of sanctions levied upon Russia, which will negatively affect its oil production and the production of many of the "+" members of OPEC+ that are closely aligned to Russia. Consequently, supply will likely be meaningfully tighter than anticipated earlier despite many countries releasing oil held within their strategic reserves, the return of full U.S. shale oil production, and possible production increases by Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the changed geopolitical landscape means the return of high-risk premiums to oil prices for a considerable period into the future.

(Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency, data as of February 8th)

Oil price expectations - a consequence of the changed dynamics of oil's supply and demand - and what they mean for the Iraqi economy, are meaningfully higher than those articulated here in the "Outlook for 2022" which argued at the time that "oil prices at these levels are positive for the country's financial position in that they will provide governments, current and upcoming, with the wherewithal to continue with current expansionary economic policies that will also still allow for the accumulation of budget surpluses. Moreover, they will also lead to multi-year positive balances in the country's current account which in turn will translate into meaningful increases in Iraq's foreign exchange reserves."

Iraq's equity market outlook and attractive risk-reward profile, in the unfolding new world order, is in sharp contrast to that of many markets worldwide. Firstly, the Iraqi equity market is in the process of emerging from a multi-year bear market that saw the Rabee Securities RSISX USD Index at the end of 2020 down by 68% from its 2014 all-time high - unlike many markets worldwide that have had multi-year bull markets.

Secondly, its 8.8% performance year-to-date is in contrast to the sell-offs experienced by other markets in response to the changed world order dynamics.

Finally, the index's 8.8% increase year-to-date coming on the back of a +21.4% return in 2021, is by the end of the month still 58% below the 2014 high - underscoring the potential catch-up upside for the equity market and its attractive risk-reward profile versus other global markets (chart below).

Normalised returns for the RSISUSD Index vs MSCI World Index, MSCI Emerging Markets Index and MSCI Frontier Markets Index

(Source: Bloomberg, data as of February 28th)

Please click here to download Ahmed Tabaqchali's full report in pdf format.

Mr Tabaqchali (@AMTabaqchali) is the Chief Strategist of the AFC Iraq Fund, and is an experienced capital markets professional with over 25 years' experience in US and MENA markets. He is a Visiting Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS), and a Senior Non-resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council. He is also a board member of Capital Investments, the investment banking arm of Capital Bank in Jordan.

His comments, opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any fund or security or to adopt any investment strategy. It does not constitute legal or tax or investment advice. The information provided in this material is compiled from sources that are believed to be reliable, but no guarantee is made of its correctness, is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding Iraq, the region, market or investment.

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Iraqi Central Bank may Stop Financial Dealings with Russia

By Layal Shakir, for Rudaw. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi central bank suggests halting business, financial dealings with Russia

The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) on Wednesday suggested halting business operations and financial dealings with Russia following America's far-reaching sanctions as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues for the seventh day.

Click here to read the full article.

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Iraq was Largest Beneficiary of China’s Belt & Road in 2021

By John Lee.

Iraq was the largest beneficiary from China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2021, according to a study by the Green Finance & Development Center, at Shanghai's Fudan University.

It says the country with the highest construction volume was Iraq, with about $10.5 billion, followed by Serbia (about $6.8 billion) and Indonesia (about $2.4 billion).

In the energy sector, Iraq received by far the most investment from China in 2021.

Iraq and China cooperate on oil (e.g., construction of the Al Khairat heavy oil power plant with a total value of about $5 billion), gas (e.g., development of the Mansuriya gas field by Sinopec together with Iraq's Midland Oil Company), as well as solar (e.g., a 2 GW power PV project, currently in permission stage developed and owned by Power Construction Corporation of China valued at $3.7 billion).

The report suggests that the price for the solar power project seems unusually high if no energy storage facility is included, with a comparable 2.2GW solar plant completed in China's Qinghai, with 202 MWh storage, at a cost of $2.2 billion.

A Chinese company, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), will also rehabilitate Nassiryiah International Airport.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: Green Finance & Development Center)

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KRG PM meets President of the Iraq Britain Business Council

The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masrour Barzani, on Saturday met Baroness Emma Nicholson, President of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Prime Minister Barzani highlighted the reforms of the ninth cabinet, its bid to diversify the economy and crucially to make the Kurdistan Region a focal point for business.

Baroness Nicholson gave a briefing on the council's work, especially its last conference which was held in Dubai and which concentrated on developing UK, Iraq, and Kurdistan Region trade relations.

(Source: KRG)

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