|09BAGHDAD2063||2009-08-01 08:48:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Baghdad|
VZCZCXRO2352 RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHIHL RUEHKUK DE RUEHGB #2063/01 2130848 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 010848Z AUG 09 FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4152 INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002063
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: An Iraqi investment bank's takeover of the
mixed-owned enterprise (MOE) Baghdad Softdrink Company could be a
model for moving the stagnating MOE sector forward. Since gaining a
controlling stake of Baghdad Softdrink, the bankers have brought in
capital and management expertise to resolve quality and labor
issues. Over a year old, the venture has successfully increased
employment, tripled the company's production, and brought $250
million of investment to East Baghdad. END SUMMARY
DRINKING FROM THE TIGRIS
2. (U) Baghdad Softdrink was founded in 1950 and became an official
Pepsi franchise in 1984, covering the middle of Iraq. Located in
the Zafaraneeya Industrial Park in East Baghdad amidst a cluster of
large (1,000- 5,000 employees) mixed-owned enterprises, it suffered
declines in productivity, capacity, and quality experienced by other
MOEs in recent years. The Company employs about 1,200 workers, not
including auxiliary services such as drivers and agents is traded on
the Iraqi Stock Exchange. It is 51 percent state-owned.
3. (U) Shortly after the liberation of Baghdad, Pepsi International
resumed ties with Baghdad Softdrink and provided management and
production training from Pepsi's Beirut offices. Utilizing fellow
Arabic speakers with post-conflict experience, Pepsi made a
concerted effort effort to bring the company up to international
standards. In addition, Pepsi International loaned Baghdad
Softdrink approximately $30 million to overhaul the plant and
restart operations. Despite this assistance, production, quality,
and profit remained flat.
BANKERS TAKE THE PEPSI CHALLENGE
4. (SBU) In late 2007, Baghdad Softdrink approached Al-Bilad Islamic
Bank, owned by the Al-Hassaney family, for help servicing the loans
from Pepsi. Harith Yahya, a family member and managing director of
an Al-Bilad subsidiary, proposed a debt-for-equity mechanism and by
March of 2008, Al Bilad had purchased a controlling 40 percent stake
of the company, reducing the GOI share to 14 percent. The bankers
immediately made radical changes to the company's operations,
installing new management software, QA/QC procedures, and a
finger-print ID system for workers. According to Harith, production
over the last year has tripled to approximately 3 million cans per
day, and the market value of the company is up 30 percent. Hundreds
of new trucks began bringing raw materials and finished product in
and out of the nearly idle Zafaraneeya Industrial Park. Notably,
Pepsi International recently fully certified Baghdad Softdrink for
meeting all of the company's quality standards.
LABOR TROUBLES BUBBLE UP . . . AND FLATTEN OUT.
5. (U) The bankers immediately ran into challenges with their labor
force. Harith explained that the workforce lacked training and
"mentality." The new management instituted a "performance based"
bonus system and demanded workers show up for work. Within days of
taking the helm, Harith found himself locked in the executive
suites, trapped by 750 workers protesting the changes in management.
Al-Bilad installed a private security company and threatened to
shut down production unless the union ceased disrupting work. A
year later, Harith reports that attendance is up to "100 percent,"
the company has begun hiring new drivers and laborers, and with the
new performance package, workers are getting paid "double their
6. (U) In the spring of 2009, Al Bilad broke ground for an ambitious
Q6. (U) In the spring of 2009, Al Bilad broke ground for an ambitious
expansion of operations to support Baghdad Softdrink operations.
The bank is investing approximately $250 million in greenfield
facilities along the Zafaraneeya Industrial Park for facilities
that will bottle water under the Aquafina brand, produce the
currently imported aluminum cans and glass bottles used by the
company, and recycle Baghdad's municipal waste paper into cardboard
packaging for their products. The combined facilities, to be
completed by the end of 2009, will employ 1,500 new direct hires.
According to Harith, "It will be the largest bottling operation in
the Middle East" by the end of 2009.
7. (SBU) Al-Bilad has taken interest in other companies in the
Industrial Park. In May of 2009, the bank took an undisclosed
position in the MOE Electronic Industries Company (EIC). With EIC,
Al-Bilad is following the Baghdad Softdrink model, providing
expertise and taking a position on the Board of Directors. While
Harith has examined deals with other MOE's in the industrial park,
the bank deemed the deals too risky "because of the GOI's
controlling ownership." Despite this, the bankers continue to look
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for opportunities in the mixed sector.
8. (SBU) Iraqi Investment banks, bringing capital and management
experience, offer the possibility of investment, employment, and
productivity to the stagnating MOE sector. Banks are capable and
willing to rehabilitate these companies, clearly seeing a potential
for profit. With the improved security situation in East Baghdad,
EPRT has seen an increased activity and interest from serious
investors. Indeed, Harith himself said that the deciding factor was
"the incredible turnaround in security in the area provided by CF
and ISF over the past year." In the majority of these enterprises,
the GOI continues to hold over 51 percent ownership. Until the GOI
begins to cede its stranglehold of control on the mixed sector, and
its state owned enterprises as a whole, it will likely continue to
lose jobs and opportunities for the Iraqi economy. Sadly, the case
of Baghad Softdrinks and Al-Bilad might become the exception.