British Business in Iraqi Kurdistan

By Chris Bowers, British Consul General in Erbil. This article was originally published by Rudaw, and is re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.

One of the pleasures of writing this column is that it gives me an opportunity to challenge a few myths. One of which is the view that UK businesses are lagging behind their competitors in Iraqi Kurdistan.

I don’t think that is true. Let me tell you why.

The merger between UK Company Vallares and Genel to create a London-listed company worth around $4.5billion probably represents the biggest investment by any company into Iraqi Kurdistan. It is also one of the top investments into the whole of Iraq in 2011.

UK companies now probably manage more hydrocarbon reserves in the KRG than any other country. UK companies Sterling, Heritage and Gulf Keystone have been working for several years here and the latter two have made very considerable discoveries.

By my calculation, Vallares, Afren and Gulf Keystone have in the last few months invested somewhere around $3billion into KR hydrocarbons exploration and production.

That is a huge vote of confidence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Most, if not all, of that money comes from London financial institutions and investors. So, it is vote of confidence by them, too. London investors are no pushovers. They do not put their money into Kurdistan because the British Government tells them to, and they do not do it as part of some grand conspiracy scheme to ‘control’ Kurdistan. They do it because they are convinced that the conditions are right for investment, there is significant potential and that they will get their money back with interest over time.

Only a year or so ago, there were many skeptics about the potential and significance of Kurdish oil and gas. With each pound of investment those doubts are being erased.

That is good for Iraq, good for UK and good for regional energy security.

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