Abu Dhabi's Invest AD has launched an Iraq Investment Fund to channel investment into high-growth companies in a country where improving stability and increased oil production should fuel strong economic expansion in coming years.
Invest AD is seeding the fund and is marketing it alongside its other equities and private equity funds that invest in the Middle East and Africa.
"As Iraq stabilise, it should take its place as one of the major economies in this vibrant region," said Invest AD Chief Executive Officer Nazem Fawwaz Al Kudsi. "The country is overcoming difficult circumstances to make real progress towards an open economy, and we see tremendous opportunities in the long term. By entering the market early, we hope to capitalize fully."
The new fund, which is open to institutional and high-net-worth investors early in October, will make investments primarily in listed equities, but also in unlisted opportunities.
Iraq is widely considered one of the last frontiers in emerging markets, although the stock market is tipped to grow rapidly in coming years as the country recovers from conflict.
Invest AD, established by the Abu Dhabi government in 1977, is among a handful of companies to offer global investors access to Iraqi equities, and the only one based in the Middle East.
Mr Al Kudsi says that Invest AD is seeing growing regional and international investor interest in Iraq. "They see the growth potential, whether through fixed or portfolio investments. The Iraqi equity market is still quite small by regional standards, but from small beginnings come big opportunities. We expect our fund to grow in line with this."
Iraq's economy will grow by over 7 percent annually in the next couple of years, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the country's current account and fiscal deficits turning to surplus as oil production increases.
Iraq has the world's third-largest proven oil reserves and the country has signed 11 oilfield development deals with major oil firms including Royal Dutch Shell, Italy's Eni, Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum Corp and South Korea's KOGAS. These deals are projected to lift the country's capacity within seven years to just under Saudi Arabian levels of 12 million barrels per day, from 2.5 million now.