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Branson considering Iraq bid
22 Sep 2003 by Malcolm Drury
Following the announcement by the US-appointed Iraqi administration that it is opening up all sectors of the country's economy except oil to foreign investors to help with the country's reconstruction efforts, the Virgin conglomerate is considering bidding, DeadBrain has learned.
Speaking by Virgin Mobile from a Virgin Train while en route to open a new Virgin Megastore in Bootle, Virgin top dog Sir Richard Branson told our reporter that the opportunities in Iraq were almost endless.
"I think 'Virgin Iraq' is a concept whose time has come," he said. "It fits in with our expansion plans. We already have the UK market pretty well wrapped up. Buying whole industrial sectors in other countries is a logical next step. The market in the Middle East is wide open."
"I already have a team working on new concepts," he continued. "Products and services like 'Virgin Kebab', 'Virgin Desert Holidays', 'Virgin Camel Hire' - that kind of thing."
However, the biggest reconstruction contracts in Iraq have so far been allocated without a bidding process to American firms such as Bechtel and Halliburton, which have ties to the administration of US President "Boy" George W. Bush. Our reporter asked Sir Richard if he thought the newly-announced bidding process would be truly competitive.
"I have no reason to believe it won't be," he said, "but if I suspect it's being rigged I'll pop round to see Tony [Blair] and get him to have a quick word with George [Bush]. And if I have to buy Bechtel or Halliburton to get in on the action, well, so be it. In fact the more I think about it the more 'Virgin Bechtel' sounds good!"
But Sir Richard may have another big competitor for Iraq. It appears that the Disney Corporation is also considering bidding, with a view to turning Iraq into a giant theme park. A senior Disney employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, told our reporter that the corporation was looking to get a foothold in the Middle East and that Iraq would be perfect "now that it's being americanised".
Told of this Sir Richard smiled enigmatically and said: "Bide your time and keep your eyes open for 'Virgin Disney'."
"By the way," he added, "I'm thinking of developing a new UK service, 'Virgin News'. It's about the only area where we aren't involved. Do you think DeadBrain would be interested in participating?"
Our reporter excused himself at that point, explaining that he would have to seek an answer from senior management.
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