Amec plans to break American grip on Iraq

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The Independent Online

Amec is aiming to break the stranglehold that US engineering companies have on work to rebuild Iraq, with a bid for contracts worth around £150m.

The British engineering firm has lodged two bids to refurbish oilfields in the north and the south of the country. Amec is expected to reveal further details on Thursday when it posts its half-year results. However, a spokesman said: "I can confirm that we have bid for both contracts. We expect to hear back by the middle or end of October."

The bids will be with Fluor, the giant US engineering and construction company. In April the two companies set up a joint venture, 51 per cent controlled by Fluor, specifically to bid for contracts in Iraq.

The two oil refurbishment contracts will be issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers, replacing an exclusive contract with Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, US Vice-President Dick Chaney's old company. The contract caused an outcry in the US as Democrats argued that other firms should have been given a look-in. Kellogg Brown & Root was due to give up its contract more than a month ago, but the unrest and severe looting in Iraq delayed the process.

The Amec-Fluor bid will not be without controversy. Philip Carroll, the Texan businessman hired to oversee the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, has strong links with Fluor. As its former chief executive, he receives $1m (£691,000) a year in retirement benefits and bonuses, linked to Fluor's performance. Mr Carroll has vowed not to get involved in deciding which companies are selected for reconstruction work.