Iraq: can a dusty war zone become a golden opportunity?

Financial Times
Sun, Oct 6, 2013

by Steve Johnson

Citigroup, JPMorgan and Standard Chartered have all unveiled plans to open bank branches in Iraq. The Wyndham, Starwood and Sheraton hotel groups are also venturing into the country. In addition, Iraq will soon see a $2 billion casino resort if plans come to fruition.

Portfolio investors may be missing out on a golden opportunity that banks, hotel chains and property developers have already spotted, according to business managers who have already set up shop in the country.

Much of the commercial optimism is driven by a recovery in Iraq’s oil industry, which accounts for around two-thirds of gross domestic product and 80-90 per cent of government revenue.

“This sort of situation is probably the best time to make money,” says Sherif Salem, manager of the $21m Invest AD Iraq Opportunity fund. “The country is essentially starting from zero. There are so many opportunities – it is just having the risk appetite to do it.”

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