Iraqis arrive in London to drum up British investment

But UK firms may already be missing out on a market that is forecast to reach £69bn this year because other countries have jumped in sooner

Some of Britain's most prestigious firms are lining up to cash in on the end of military action in Iraq as delegates from the new Baghdad administration arrive in London this week to declare the region "open for business". Firms such as Mothercare, Debenhams, GSK and Rolls-Royce are already in talks to sell to the Iraqis, tapping into a market expected to be worth tens of billions by the end of this year.

Almost a decade after the war that ended Saddam Hussein's regime, hundreds of representatives from UK firms are expected to attend a conference at the Dorchester Hotel in London on Tuesday. Building, healthcare, water and education are key sectors, besides oil and gas, that the Iraqis want British companies to become involved in.

But there are fears that countries untainted by the Iraq war, including Germany, China, India and Turkey, have already stolen a march on their British rivals in exploiting investment opportunities.

The stakes are high, with British exports to Iraq worth almost £200m – but the country could see its gross domestic product reach $108bn (£69bn) by the end of 2011.

Baghdad is working hard to attract British investment. Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy, will be speaking at the conference – called Iraq: Untapped Opportunities – as will ministers from the Foreign Office and the Trade and Investments department, promoting British exports.

Mothercare will base its Iraq operations in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan, a region in the north of the country that is deemed more secure than the south. Harlow International, a British building company, cut the ribbon on the re-opened $65m al-Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad's Green Zone earlier this year.

Businesses need to be more confident, warned Daniel Tain, partner at Pinson Mason, a British law firm, yesterday. "Britain forgets that it is still incredibly well-respected among Iraqi people, and the fact that it has stood back for so long has been observed positively," he said. "This is not a poor country. Places like Arbil in Kurdistan are growing at a rate that is reminiscent of Dubai a decade ago. But British businesses have been slow on the uptake and now stand to lose out."

His point was echoed by Robin Ord-Smith, Iraq director of UK Trade and Investment's, the government department. He says he is contacted by 10 to 15 British companies every week looking to move into Iraq.

"We reached the point where British businesses need to enter the Iraqi market now if we are not to lose out to competitors."

The Iraqis insist that the mood towards outside investment has changed markedly since the allied invasion in 2003. "Unlike America, Britain has a rich, historical tie to Iraq that remains despite the recent war," said Saad Saraf, an Iraqi marketing director living in London. "The vast majority of people want to modernise the country after Saddam Hussein's regime."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map