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Control of Karbala Cement plant handed over to MerchantBridge

World Cement,

Control of the Karbala Cement Plant in Iraq has officially been handed over to MerchantBridge under a 15-year lease agreement with the Government of Iraq, concluding five years of preparations. The plant, jointly controlled by MerchantBridge and Lafarge, currently produces less than 300 000 tpa of cement, which the companies are aiming to increase to 2 million tpa within 30 months.

Basil al Rahim, CEO of MerchantBridge, 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 a leading private equity group, with interests throughout the Middle East. It is currently the largest private investor to date in Iraq, with investments of over US$1.5 billion 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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