MerchantBridge & Co plans to triple cement production over the next two to three years at a plant operated by partner Lafarge SA in Karbala, Iraq.
“We expect to start breaking even in January,” MerchantBridge acting chief executive officer Eric le Blan said in an interview in Dubai yesterday.
Demand for building materials in Iraq is set to increase as the country rebuilds homes and infrastructure after years of war and economic sanctions. Iraq needs to build 2.5 million homes by 2015, the country’s housing minister said in November last year.
Production at Karbala, now at 576,000t of cement, will exceed 1.8Mta by 2013 or 2014, le Blan said. Domestic cement demand is about 20Mta and existing output about 5Mta, he added.
MerchantBridge completed in 2010 a US$220m investment with Lafarge, the world’s biggest cement company, in which they took over the Karbala plant under a 15-year lease from the government, according to a company statement in 2010. Production at the time was about 300,000t, the company said.
MerchantBridge plans to pursue additional investments in Iraq next year, including in the electricity market, where multi-billion dollar projects are under way to help resolve power shortages, le Blan said.