ARBIL, Iraq Feb 6 Britain's Standard Chartered
bank will open its first branch in Iraqi Kurdistan
early next month, attracted by financing opportunities for large
government infrastructure projects planned in the autonomous
The bank is one of a small number of foreign lenders with
operations in Iraq, which is experiencing rapid oil-fuelled
economic growth, but also its worst upsurge in violence in at
least five years.
Standard Chartered opened its country head office and first
branch last November in Baghdad's banking district, on a street
lined with blast walls and patrolled by guards with Kalashnikov
Kurdistan is relatively peaceful by contrast, and the
autonomous region's main cities are full of cranes and
The bank also plans to open another branch in the southern
oil hub of Basra later in 2014.
Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Iraq Gavin
Wishart told Reuters that the business environment in Kurdistan
was "progressive" and described the pace of development as
Security concerns and a complex regulatory and political
environment have put some international firms off doing business
there. HSBC is trying to exit Iraq by selling its stake
in Dar Es Salaam Investment Bank.
"We hope that as the financial services sector develops, we
can be the partner of choice in that area," Britain's Ambassador
to Iraq Simon Collis said at a news conference during his visit
to the Kurdish capital Arbil on Thursday.
Iraq's federal government and the Kurdish region are in
dispute over how to exploit the country's vast hydrocarbon
reserves and how share the proceeds.