October 18, 2018 / 2:18 PM / a year ago

Iraq transfers ownership of nine state oil companies to new National Oil Company

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi speaks during a news conference in Basra, Iraq June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani /File Photo

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi has issued a decree transferring the ownership of nine state-owned oil companies, including state oil marketer SOMO, from the oil ministry to the newly-formed National Oil Company which he also heads, a ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

Luaibi took the decision in his capacity as National Oil Company chief, not minister, according to a statement by spokesman Asim Jihad. The decision will be “followed by others within the same framework,” Jihad said.

The Iraqi government had last week named Luaibi as head of the new National Oil Company, which is to serve as an umbrella organization for state oil firms. The positions of company chief and minister are not related, but Luaibi currently holds both.

Parliament voted in March to establish the company, which is meant to manage Iraq’s upstream operations, freeing up the ministry to set plans and strategies for developing the sector.

The nine companies included in Thursday’s decision are SOMO, the Iraqi Oil Exploration Company, the Iraqi Drilling Company, the North Oil Company, the Midland Oil Company, Basra Oil Company, Dhi Qar Oil Company, Maysan Oil Company and the Iraqi Oil Tankers Company.

Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul Mahdi, who is tasked with forming a new government months after a political deadlock following a May election, called on officials in the outgoing government to refrain from signing urgent contracts, making non-essential hires, or other key decisions. It was unclear if his statement was related to Luaibi’s decision.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and David Evans

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