Exxon leads exodus from Basra to Kurdistan

Spooked by Baghdad's red tape and political volatility, international companies - led by Exxon - are leaving Basra to seek greater profits in Kurdistan.
Exxon leads exodus from Basra to Kurdistan
A worker adjusts the valve of an oil pipe at the West Qurna 1 oilfield in Basra on Nov. 28, 2010. (ATEF HASSAN/Reuters)

BAGHDAD - At a recent meeting of American government and private sector leaders in Baghdad, a top ExxonMobil official foreshadowed his company's impending exit from southern Iraq.

The Iraqi government had no regard for "the time value of money," the official said, according to multiple people who attended the meeting. Exxon had poured billions into the super-giant West Qurna 1 field, but Baghdad's red tape was delaying payments and urgent imports; meanwhile, financing costs were consuming the project's relatively slim profit margin.

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