Iraqi construction firms are visiting the UK in an attempt to build partnering deals with British contractors, amid continuing fears that security issues are deterring companies from entering the region

Four construction companies from northern Iraq will join a government-sponsored trade mission to the UK at the end of this month. The delegation will attend a meeting with the British Consultants and Construction Bureau.

The firms are headed by the Diyar Group, which has a turnover of $60m (£32m). It is now employed on a number of US-funded reconstruction projects. The other companies are Serwan, which has projects throughout the country, and Bareaz and Kasra, which both work mainly in the north.

Ric Nye, director at the BCCB, said: “The meeting is one of the central events for the delegation. The Iraqi firms are looking for partnering possibilities, and for workable ways of achieving partnering, as security is a continuing concern for British firms in Iraq.”

British firms at the meeting will be addressed by Noel Guckian, head of the BCCB office in Kirkuk, north Iraq.

However, a source close to the bureau said that many companies are still unlikely to enter the region.

The source said: “I think many companies are suffering from ‘Iraq fatigue’. People will come to the meeting because they are interested in keeping up with the situation, and want to touch base with firms from the region. But I think the vast majority will wait to see what happens to the security situation after the election.”

The four construction companies are part of a delegation of 10 firms from the construction, energy, pharmaceutical, motor and agriculture industries.

I think many companies are suffering from ‘Iraq fatigue’

Source close to BCCB

The mission will be followed in April by Rebuild Iraq 2005, an exhibition and seminar programme held in Amman, Jordan.

According to the source, holding the conference in Jordan rather than Iraq itself reflected a growing awareness that special measures had to be put in place to encourage overseas firms back to Iraq.

The source said: “Amman is a good location for the conference as there is an increasing number of Iraqi firms setting up bases in the region, to allow overseas contractors to work from there. There is obviously a recognition that Iraq is not a normal market, and specific methods of working need to be applied to deal with the situation.”

A number of British construction companies are still active in Iraq. Amec is working in a joint venture with American engineering contractor Fluor Corporation on power and water infrastructure projects, and Costain is also present.

However, security fears over kidnappings mean that many firms will not employ British staff in the region. QS Baker Wilkins is among several firms that have ruled out sending British workers to Iraq.