MerchantBridge finalise $220m investment in Iraq's Karbala Cement Plant
Signalling the conclusion of five years of preparatory work, MerchantBridge, a leading private equity group with diverse interests operating from offices in Iraq, Lebanon, UAE, KSA and the UK, together with their partners Lafarge, assumed official control through a handover process which concluded yesterday. The partners now take on full operations and management of the plant from the Government of Iraq under a 15 year lease agreement.
The Karbala Cement Plant currently produces less than 300,000 tons of cement per annum. MerchantBridge and its partner Lafarge are set to increase annual production to 2 million tons within 30 months. This investment will contribute to the rapid growth of the Iraqi economy and spearheads the ever-increasing foreign direct investments in various sectors.
Speaking from MerchantBridge's offices in Iraq, Basil al Rahim, CEO, said:
"This is an important milestone for MerchantBridge in Iraq. It demonstrates that commitment, creative thinking and dedication, the hallmarks of our operations around the world, can overcome even the most challenging of environments. This deal clearly positions MerchantBridge as the leader in the field of direct investments in Iraq and we expect that the Karbala deal will be one of a number to follow in the coming months that will further reinforce our status in Iraq and across the wider Middle East region."
MerchantBridge is the largest private investor to date in Iraq with current investments of over $1.5bn in debt and equity.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of Iraq, Sayed Nasser Idriss, the Chairman of the South Cement Company said, "We are proud to have been involved in a process that attracted such a prestigious investor to Karbala in particular and we look forward to working with MerchantBridge on future opportunities in our country. There is a 30-year reconstruction deficit in Iraq and MerchantBridge's ability to understand our operating environment marks them out as a unique player."
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