Slim pickings for Iraq's neighbours
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Slim pickings for Iraq's neighbours

Although logistics suggest that regional companies should play a major part in reconstructing Iraq, hopes of big gains have had to be scaled down. In some areas, such as telecoms, the odds look to have been stacked against Arab firms.

Amman-based financial services company Atlas Investment opens a representative office in Baghdad.

WITHIN WEEKS OF the formal declaration that US-led coalition forces had successfully completed the invasion of Iraq, Amman-based financial services company Atlas Investment had opened a representative office in Baghdad. The Jordanian company is one of a small number of Arab firms that are looking to catch some crumbs from the contractual table at which giant US corporations have feasted. These latter are headed by Bechtel, the prime contractor for rebuilding Iraq; and Halliburton, the oil services group whose CEO was once US vice-president Dick Cheney, which has won the contract for oil-field reconstruction.

There is little confidence in the Gulf that Arab contractors will win much business. In many cases they are simply not large enough to compete on their own and, as one banker notes: "Most of the regional contractors are too proud to set up consortia with rivals to win business."

But there are opportunities where they can offer specific expertise. Among the other companies to have found a niche in post-invasion Iraq are two internationally successful Jordanian firms.

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