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SCO's lifesaver 'profited from Iraq war'

Dealer in cement and software

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As protracted debacles go, the US-led invasion of Iraq and the SCO Group's fruitless prosecution of IBM over Linux have a few things in common.

They were both ill advised. Both wasted huge amounts of money. And both draw near universal contempt and condemnation. Now they have another connection.

One of two private investors buying SCO's Unix and mobile portfolio is listed among those to have profited from the Iraq war, The H has discovered. The Iraq list is operated by campaign and monitoring group Corporate Watch.

MerchantBridge ranks number 44 in a list of 66 UK-based companies Corporate Watch said made money through its activities in war-torn Iraq.

The investor, which seems to specialize in banking and construction in the Middle East, got in early.

It was made a lead adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals on a program overseeing the lease of state-owned companies to the public sector. MerchantBridge won the position eight months after the end of "major combat operations" and said it would assist in the evaluation of the bids for the nation's assets and negotiations with the bidders.

Since then, MerchantBridge has gone on to launch a $50m investment fund targeting manufacturing and the supply of construction materials in Iraq, set up Mansour Bank and created an e-banking network, won a 15-year contract as part of the AsiaCell Consortium to install a national GSM network, and won two cement factory contracts - one for a 1.2 million ton facility and the other for a "strategic" 1.8 million ton factory, both in Kerbala.

SCO looks like MerchantBridge's first move into software.

With fellow investor Gulf Cap Partners, MerchantBridge has crated unXis, which SCO said would continue the development and sale of SCO's Unix and mobile products. This will help SCO Group - under chief executive Darl McBride - dodge bankruptcy and continue their grinding legal battle against IBM, Novell, Red Hat, and AutoZone over Linux.

"Both Gulf Cap Partners and MerchantBridge will take an active role in the management of unXis," SCO said.

Can we expect Iraq's manufacturing facilities to start running SCO in the near future? ®

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