Citigroup Looks for Growth in the Middle East

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Leading global bank Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) has been granted preliminary approval by the Central Bank of Iraq to open a representative office in Baghdad.

The Honorable Stephen Beecroft, United States Ambassador to Iraq, formally announced the approval during an official ceremony hosted at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on June 24.

Citigroup Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa, James Cowles, said Iraq was an important market, with an economy that had substantial potential over time.

“Having a presence in Iraq will position us to better attune our services to the banking needs of our clients as they grow and develop their businesses in the country,” Cowles said. “It will also help us to provide liaison functions for Citi’s clients globally and contribute to the development of Iraq’s banking and capital markets,” he added.

In a press release Citigroup stated that Dennis Flannery, who has managed the bank’s Iraq desk based in Amman, Jordan for the past two years, would lead the representative office.

During a telephone interview with Bloomberg, Chief Executive Officer for Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and the Palestinian territories, Mayank Malik, said Citigroup would consider opening more offices and branches in the Middle Eastern country.

“Iraq is a giant that’s waking up and the opportunities are immense. The most significant opportunities are twofold – oil revenue generation and infrastructure creation. We estimate this to be a $1 trillion initiative over time,” Malik said.

Malik added that business in Iraq would come from international companies looking to rebuild roads, telecoms, electricity and water infrastructure. “The economic story of Iraq hasn’t changed,” Malik said. “Iraq is the only country that has economic stability and political instability.”

Citigroup stated the Baghdad office would support its in-country clients and that it was hoping to open two more representative offices in Erbil and Basra, subject to approval by the Central Bank of Iraq, at a later stage.

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