British builders in bid for $6.5bn Iraqi contracts

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The Independent Online

British construction companies Amec and Mowlem are trying to break America's stranglehold on rebuilding Iraq by bidding for nearly half of the $14bn (£7.6bn) worth of contacts up for grabs.

The two companies lodged their bids on Thursday with the US-run Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Office. To date, US companies, including Halliburton and Bechtel, have secured most of the work, with British firms confined to a secondary role.

But the 17 new contracts to repair Iraq's water, sanitation, transport, electricity and telecoms facilities offer British firms a new opportunity to participate in the reconstruction.

Amec and Mowlem have both formed partnerships with American companies for their bids. Amec and California-based Fluor are angling for contracts worth $5bn in water, transport, telecoms and electricity.

Meanwhile, Mowlem has formed a joint venture company, called Aspire Water, with Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. It is bidding for three water contracts, worth $1.5bn.

The bidding is being overseen by Admiral David Nash, who is thought to want much of the work completed within two years.

Britain's former energy minister, Brian Wilson, is helping to promote the British bids through his new role as Tony Blair's special envoy on reconstruction. "The case for British companies is based on the quality of what they can offer rather than special treatment," he said. "There are sectors where British companies' expertise is needed."

Mr Wilson said that he was involved in selling Amec's bid. "They have done everything right. They are one of the strongest contenders. But ultimately, the Americans make the decisions on who gets what because they are paying for it."

The winning bidders are expected to be announced in mid-March.