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January 2018, No. 86


News in Brief

Top Iran Business & Energy News
(September – November 2017)

ENERGY

‘Plan to Sell Rhum Test for Trump’s Iran Agenda’ 

A plan announced by global energy giant BP to sell a gas field it jointly owns with Iran is being viewed by experts as a litmus test for Washington’s policy toward Tehran (Nov. 26). BP last week said it would sell three fields including Rhum which it shares with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to UK’s North Sea operator Serica Energy. The British company would nevertheless require the license of the US Treasury Department to go ahead with selling Rhum due to Iran’s involvement in the project.     

Iran Warns of Fallout as Trump Mulls Oil Embargo 

Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh says a possible boycott of the Islamic Republic’s crude oil as sought by US President Donald Trump would affect the market. Trump issued a statement, saying because there was enough supply of oil from other countries it was possible to limit the purchase of oil and its derivatives from Iran. “Iran’s oil supply to the market is up to 2.5 million barrels a day, and the removal of this amount would definitely affect the market,” Fars News Agency quoted Zangeneh as saying. Trump’s remarks, the minister said, have had no impact on Iran’s oil trade so far and the exports are going ahead without any problem. More than 60% of Iran’s crude oil is shipped to Asian countries and about 40% to Europe. 

Gas Exporters Blast US Use of Sanctions as Weapon 

Gas exporting countries have condemned the use of sanctions as a weapon against other nations, in an apparent jab at the United States. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), which has 12 members in the likes of Iran, Russia and Qatar, issued a communiqué at the end of its summit in Bolivia (Nov. 25). Some members of the group such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela have been slapped with unilateral economic sanctions by the United States which is widely believed to be waging an energy war in line with its global domination plans. In its statement, the GECF expressed “profound concern” about sanctions that are not authorized by the United Nations. 

Iran Looking for New EU Oil Clients 

Iran says it is negotiating with new European clients to sell its crude oil. Marzieh Shahdaei, the country’s acting petroleum minister, was quoted by media as saying that the move would be part of Iran’s policy to increase oil exports specifically to Europe (Nov. 21). She also suggested that this could be in response to recent declines in purchases by Iran’s Asian clients. 

First LNG Shipment Expected in Late 2018 

Only weeks after the world heard news of a revival in Iran’s ambitious plans to get a foothold in the global market of liquefied natural gas (LNG), speculations are now emerging that the country’s first consignments of the strategic fuel could flow to markets in 12 months’ time. The Business Monitor International (BMI) – the international publisher of specialist business information – said in a report that the first yields in Iran’s LNG production campaign could come from a floating liquefaction project the country plans to launch in the Persian Gulf waters. The project – a joint venture between Iran and Norway’s Hemla Vantage – could give Iran a tactical advantage to deepen relations with its partners in Europe and Asia, wrote the BMI. 

Oil Exports to India Up 88% 

The latest market figures indicate a giant increase in India’s imports of crude oil from Iran throughout October in yet another sign of success for the Iranian oil industry after the removal of sanctions that had decimated its exports for several years. Figures released by Reuters show India imported 183,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and condensate – an ultra-light type of oil – from Iran.  The figure showed an increase of 88 percent compared to September, the news agency added quoting tanker data (Nov. 18). India’s imports of Iran’s oil over the same period were nonetheless lower than last year by 27 percent. The country’s imports of Iranian crude at the time stood at 250,000 bpd. 

Only UNSC Sanctions Can Force Total Out 

Iran says the French energy giant Total - that has won a deal to develop a key gas project in the country - can quit only if forced to do so as a result of sanctions by the UN Security Council. Zangeneh was quoted by media as saying that the deal determined the conditions by means of which the French company could quit the project to develop Phase 11 of South Pars energy zone (Nov. 18).  “The agreement with Total is a credible one and that company cannot withdraw from the project under ordinary conditions,” Iran’s IRNA quoted him as saying. 

South Korea’s Oil Imports from Iran Up 83% 

The latest market figures that South Korea’s imports of crude from Iran saw a significant increase in October compared to the same period last year, but were nonetheless lower than September by a slight margin. Based on a report by Reuters, Iran shipped 1.65 million tons of crude oil, or 390,675 bpd, to South Korea in October. The figure marked an increase of 83 percent compared to the same period last year.  However, it also marked a fall of 9.5 percent compared to September when shipments stood at 1.83 million tons. The high volume of Iran’s oil exports to South Korea is in line with ongoing efforts by the country to ramp up its oil output since sanctions were lifted last year in a bid to recoup its lost market share, Reuters added (Nov. 15). 

Lukoil Says Iran’s NIOC, Others Eyeing Its ISAB Refinery 

Russia’s oil giant Lukoil says companies from Iran as well as Azerbaijan and Algeria have voiced interest in purchasing its ISAB refinery in Italy’s Sicily (Nov. 15). Reports quoted Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov as saying that the companies were the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Azerbaijan’s SOCAR and Algeria’s Sonatrach. The move was earlier said to have been in line with the Russian company’s plans to review its overseas operations. Alekperov emphasized that there has been a huge demand from companies that wanted to purchase the ISAB refinery.  He added that his company would consider all bids.  

‘Total Wants to Know Fate of Iran Sanctions Sooner’ 

France’s key energy company Total says it is moving ahead with a plan to develop a major gas project in Iran, but would nonetheless want to know sooner whether the US would re-impose sanctions on Iran or not (Nov. 14). Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné has been quoted by media as saying that his company would have to proceed within the framework of US laws over its Iran plans specifically now that it has higher stakes in the US. “Either we can do the deal legally if there is a legal framework,” Pouyanné told the CNN. “We work in the US, we have assets in the US, and we just acquired more assets in the US. If we cannot do that for legal reasons, because of [a] change of [the] regime of sanctions, then we have to revisit it.” 

Siemens Delivers Second F-Class Turbine to Iran 

Iran has taken delivery of the second F-class gas turbine from German engineering group Siemens for use at a 600-megawatt power station being built in Bandar Abbas (Nov. 11). Under a contract signed with Iran’s energy and infrastructure conglomerate MAPNA, the German group is to supply at least 20 gas turbines as well as associated generators over a period of five years. The far-reaching agreement signed in March 2016 foresees the transfer of know-how for the F-class gas turbine technology to modernize the Iranian power supply system. It also includes a license for manufacturing F-class gas turbines in Iran. 

Gazprom Signs Deal to Make Iran LNG Player 

Russia’s Gazprom says it has signed a basic agreement with NIOC that envisages cooperation over the production of LNG. The company announced in a statement posted on its website that this would be part of a wider plan for cooperation that focuses on the development of Iran’s gas fields “with subsequent transportation and monetization”. The agreement was signed between Gazprom’s Deputy Chairman Vitaly Markelov and Iran’s Deputy Petroleum Minister for Trade and International Affairs Amir Hossein Zamaninia. If made final, it would make Iran a key player in the profitable global market of LNG it has been absent so far (Nov. 7). 

Total Officially Set in Motion to Start Iran Project 

Iran says it has given the required work permits to the foreign employees of Total thus setting the company in motion to start the development of a key gas project in the country. The employees for whom the work permits were issued included directors as well as experts, Iran’s media quoted a statement by the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare as saying (Nov. 7). 

Russia to Export Gas to Pakistan, India from Iranian Fields! 

Only days after reports emerged that Russia is pushing ahead a new plan to export natural gas to Pakistan and India through Iran, there are indications about the possible source of supply for the ambitious project. Zangeneh told reporters (Nov. 5) that Russian companies could take away a certain amount of the oil at a field they had developed in compensation for the investment they had made in it. “In case the development of an oil field by Russians leads to production, they can receive a certain amount of what Iran owes them for their investment as oil,” Zangeneh was quoted by IRNA. 

Total to Comply with any US Sanctions on Iran: CEO 

Total says it has opened an office in Washington to coordinate its operations in Iran where the French oil and gas major plans to develop Phase 11 of the giant South Pars gas field (Nov. 4). Total was the first Western energy firm to sign a major deal, worth $4.8 billion, with Iran after sanctions were lifted on the Islamic Republic in 2016 under a nuclear agreement. However, President Trump’s refusal last month to endorse the nuclear agreement with Iran and his threat to levy new sanctions on the country has thrown the future of the deal into doubt. 

Russia to Help Iran Boost Oil Output by 1.1 mb/d 

Russia says it has worked out a “road map” with Iran over cooperating in production of crude oil that envisages investing billions of dollars to increase the country’s oil production by at least 1.1 million barrels per day. Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s Rosneft energy giant, was quoted by media as saying that the road map had been enshrined in a preliminary agreement that his company had signed with the NIOC earlier (Nov. 3). The agreement, he emphasized, envisaged that Russia and Iran would cooperate over a number of “strategic” projects worth up to $30 billion. 

Regional Goals in Iran-Russia Energy Partnership 

Reports by Iran’s media over the agreements that the country signed with Russia during the visit to Tehran by President Vladimir Putin show that the two countries are set to push ahead a strategic partnership in the area of energy with goals that go beyond their borders (Nov. 3). The NIOC had signed at least four agreements with Russian giants Gazprom and Rosneft – two with each - over certain oil and gas projects. No details on what was exactly agreed on emerged in the media. 

Oil Sales to Asia Highest in Six Months 

The latest market figures show that Asian buyers increased their purchases of crude oil from Iran in September for a third straight month with imports from the Islamic Republic now standing at the highest levels since March. Figures show imports of Iran’s oil by China, India, South Korea and Japan over the period stood at above 1.9 million bpd.  The imports were higher than August by around 20 percent, Reuters reported (Oct. 31). Nevertheless, Iran’s sales to its Asian clients were below highs that were hit earlier this year and last year when the Islamic Republic started to flow major volumes of oil to the markets after the removal of the sanctions. 

Total Dawdles on $4.8 bn Iran Gas Project 

Total is withholding decision on a $4.8 billion development plan for the world’s largest gas field in Iran, awaiting clarity from the US (Oct. 28). Total was the first Western oil major to sign a deal with Iran to develop and operate phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars in July but the company seems to have hit the brakes on the plan after President Trump refused to certify Tehran’s nuclear agreement. Total’s Chief Financial Officer Patrick de La Chevardiere said the group was proceeding with plans to announce tenders for its Iran South Pars gas project and the main contract would be awarded at the beginning of 2018 when there would be clarity from the US. 

Iran Signs Deal over ‘Unique’ Floating LNG Scheme 

Iran has finalized a contract which could provide it with a crucial access to global markets of LNG it had been denied for years as a result of US sanctions (Oct. 27). The contract – widely believed to be unique in many ways – would envisage an investment of at least $600 million in a project that would be the first of its kind in the region and among only a few so far implemented in the world. It was awarded by the NIOC to a joint venture between Norway’s Hemla Vantage energy giant and Iran’s Kharg Petrochemical Company, SHANA, affiliated to Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum, reported. 

Uzbekistan Joins List of Iran’s Oil Clients 

Iran says it is studying a request by Uzbekistan to export crude oil to the Central Asian country – an announcement that shows the list of Iranian oil clients is expanding as the nation pumps more crude to international markets (Oct. 18). Zangeneh was quoted by the domestic media in Tehran as saying that ranking Uzbek oil officials were already discussing imports from Iran with the NIOC. “Uzbekistan’s oil production is limited. Therefore, it needs to import this strategic product,” Zangeneh was quoted as saying by IRNA. “Given that Uzbekistan has no access to sea, exports to the country need to be carried out through land and probably by rail,” he said after meeting the visiting Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. 

Oil Exports to China Up 59% 

The latest market figures show that Iran’s exports of crude oil to China in September saw a whopping increase of 59 percent compared to the same period last year (Oct. 25). Figures released by Reuters showed that Iran exported as much as 3.22 million tons – or 784,000 bpd – to Asia’s largest and world’s second top consumer last month. Reuters quoted traders with knowledge of Iran’s oil sales as saying that the hefty growth was spurred by resumption of condensate lifting. 

India Offers $11 bn to Develop Iran’s Farzad B Gas Field 

A leading Indian energy company has announced that it has presented an offer to Iran to develop its Farzad B gas field through an investment that it says could reach as high as $11 billion (Oct. 10). The offer was presented by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp, and involved an integrated package comprising both producing gas at the field and cooling it into LNG for exports. OVL Managing Director Narendra Verma was quoted by the media in New Delhi as saying that his company was waiting for a response from Tehran to what he described as “the best offer” to develop the gas field which is located in Iran’s shore of the Persian Gulf. 

Iran, Russia Sign Caspian Oil Exploration Deals 

Iran has signed two agreements with Russia’s Lukoil to jointly look for hydrocarbon reserves in the southern parts of the Caspian Sea – a groundbreaking move that could have significant economic as well as political outcomes for both Tehran and Moscow (Oct. 4). The agreements were signed during a visit to Moscow by Iran’s petroleum minister and followed, as the domestic media reported, “several months of negotiations”.  No details regarding the documents have been publicized. This would be the first time for Iran and Russia to cooperate over an energy-related project in the Caspian Sea. 

Total Preparing to Do Russia-Style Iran Funding 

Total has indicated that it plans to use the same solutions it employs for doing business in Russia under US sanctions, for a key gas project in Iran in case Washington re-imposes sanctions against the country (Oct. 3). Total chief executive officer told The Financial Times that his company had successfully used an alternative basket of foreign currencies in providing funds for the development of a key gas project in Russia which faces US financial restrictions. Pouyanné said the solution for providing funds for the development of the second phase of Arctic natural gas liquefaction project involved using currencies like the euro and China’s yuan instead of the US dollar. 

Oil Products Shipment to Iraqi Kurdistan Banned 

Iran’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development has warned companies against shipment of oil products to and from the Iraqi Kurdistan “until further notice,” Iranian news agencies reported (Sept. 30). The decision is in line with Tehran’s series of measures in response to a referendum held in the semi-autonomous region on possible secession from Iraq which has drawn international criticism. “Given the recent developments in the region, it is suitable that international transportation companies and drivers active in this field avoid loading and carrying oil products to and from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region until further notice,” a directive by the ministry’s Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization said. 

US Unable to Stop Iran’s Oil Exports: Platts 

If the US re-imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil sector without the support of Europe, China and Russia, it will see grudging and uneven compliance by international energy companies and will not be able to stop crude flows that returned to the market in 2015, according to sanctions expert Elizabeth Rosenberg (Sept. 30). “Grudging compliance does not look like robust, immediate information sharing to support the enforcement of sanctions,” said Rosenberg, the director of the energy economics and security program at the Center for New American Security and a former Treasury Department adviser on sanctions. 

US Interior Secretary Hints at Economic War on Iran 

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says Washington is now better placed to use its “economic dominance” to cut Iran’s oil revenues (Sept. 30). American companies have been jacking up shale oil production since President Trump walked away from the Paris climate treaty. US ability to extract energy from vast shale formations has put the country on the brink of being a global energy powerhouse. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Zinke said US “economic leverage would work to supplant every drop of crude that Iran produces and energy dominance is part of that,” the Washington Examiner website reported. 

Iran to Build Refinery in Syria’s Homs 

Iran has announced an ambitious plan to construct an oil refinery in Syria in what could be a fresh sign that things in the country are set to return to normalcy after more than six years (Sept. 26). The announcement was made by Mansour Bazmi, the acting chief of Iran’s Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI). Bazmi told reporters that the projected refinery would have an initial processing capacity of 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) that would increase to 140,000 bpd once fully developed. 

Iraq Says to Invest in Joint Oil Projects with Iran 

Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi says an agreement will be signed with Iran soon to jointly invest in two oil fields shared between the two countries (Sept. 25). Luaibi did not specify which fields were concerned and when the agreement would be signed. Nevertheless, it would be a groundbreaking move in the history of economic cooperation between the two important oil heavyweights in the region. In August, Iraq’s Ambassador to Tehran Rajih al-Mussawi said his country was considering a plan to cooperate with Iran in the development of Azadegan oil field which the two sides share. 

Iran Named World’s Third Largest Gas Producer 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) in its latest report on the status of the global energy market said that Iran was the world’s third largest producer of natural gas in 2016 (Sept. 24). The IEA in its report said Iran had produced 190 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas last year which it said was 5.3 percent of world’s total. The agency noted that the US and Russia were the leading gas producers over the same period adding that their outputs stood at 749 bcm (20.7 percent) and 644 bcm (17.7 percent), respectively. 

Petrobras to Look for Oil in Iran’s Share of Caspian Sea 

Brazil has voiced interest in looking for hydrocarbon reserves in the Iranian share of the Caspian Sea (Sept. 22). This was announced by Brazil’s Ambassador to Tehran Rodrigo de Azeredo Santos in a meeting with Yousef Etemadi, the acting managing director of Iran’s Khazar Exploration and Production Company (KEPCO). Santos emphasized that Brazil’s Petrobras was ready to cooperate with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and its subsidiary companies like KEPCO in conducting exploration operations in the Caspian Sea. 

UK’s Quercus Seals Iran’s €500 Million Solar Deal 

UK renewables investor Quercus has signed a deal worth over half a billion euros to build and operate a 600-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Iran, the company said (Sept. 20). The work located in central Iran is expected to take three years, with the project coming online in 100 MW phases every six months, Quercus said of its first project outside Europe. “As Iran opens for business, we are delighted to be taking a leading role in building the country’s renewable energy infrastructure at such an early stage of its development,” Quercus CEO Diego Biasi said. 

South Korea Is Iran’s New Natural Gas Client 

State-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), the world’s second-largest single buyer of LNG, says it plans to import natural gas from Iran as well as explore opportunities to acquire gas field stakes in the country (Sept. 16). A KOGAS official said the company was looking to diversify its import sources as supply contracts with Qatar and Oman were set to expire by 2015. “Iran is rich in natural gas so we would like to work closely with both public and private energy companies there,” the official was quoted by Korea Times as saying. 

Iran’s Renewable Energy Sector Is a $60 bn Bonanza 

Iran expects its installed renewable power capacity barring hydropower to surpass 700 megawatts at the end of the current Persian year in March 2018. Currently, Iran has 77,000 megawatts of power capacity, of which 360 megawatts is renewable energy. Most of the electricity generated in the country comes from thermal power plants which use fossil fuel (Sept. 16). According to Deputy Energy Minister Houshang Falahatian, renewable energy including hydropower accounts for about 6 percent of the overall electricity produced in the country where 90% of the fuel used in power plants is natural gas. 

Iran Eyeing €500 mn in Gas Recovery Deals 

Iran says it has serious plans to attract as much as €500 million in foreign investments for projects to collect flare gas in its South Pars energy hub (Sept. 8). The announcement was made only days after the country awarded a deal worth €42 million to a consortium led by France’s Sofregaz for a similar project at the treatment plant of South Pars Phases 2 and 3. “Reducing the level of industrial pollutants is an important issue that has been highlighted in Iran’s upstream documents and is a key concern of the officials,” Mohammad Meshkin-Fam,  managing director of Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC), was quoted by the domestic media as saying. 

Germans Clinch Iran’s First Methanol Sales Deal 

Iran has signed its first contract for sales of methanol produced at a petrochemical plant which will come on stream soon, the facility’s managing director says (Sept. 2). The pre-sale agreement between Marjan Petrochemical Company and a major German firm came on the eve of the operation of the facility in Iran’s hydrocarbon hub of Asaluyeh, its CEO Hassan Beigi was quoted as saying. “Marjan is the first petrochemical company to have sealed a contract for sales of products with European companies,” he said, without naming the German company. 

ECONOMY & TRADE

Government’s 100-Day Track Record 

One hundred days into his second term, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani outlined his government’s performance and reaffirmed his commitment to fulfilling his campaign promises on live television (Nov. 29). Rouhani was reelected as Iran’s president on May 19 with more than 23.5 million votes, or 57% of the total votes cast, on a platform of “economic development, creating jobs, promoting social freedoms, normalizing relations with the outside world, removing the remaining US sanctions” and putting the country back on the global economic map. He started off his briefing on the economy by saying that there was zero job creation from 2006-7 to 2013-14 whereas from the third quarter of 2014-15 to the second quarter of 2017-18, an average of 685,000 jobs were generated annually. 

CKTI Nations Seal Deal to Boost Rail Traffic 

China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran have signed an agreement to increase the volume of cargoes shipped through the four countries to international markets by rail (Nov. 28). The agreement was reached after a meeting between the representatives of the countries in the Kazakh city of Astana, according to a statement by Kazakhstan’s railways KTZ. 

CBI Puts Inflation at 9.9% 

The average goods and services Consumer Price Index for urban areas in the 12 months ending Nov. 21, which marks the end of the Iranian month of Aban, increased by 9.9% compared with last year’s corresponding period, the latest report released by the Central Bank of Iran showed. CBI had put the inflation rate for the preceding month of Mehr, which ended on Oct. 22, at 9.8%. The overall CPI (using the Iranian year to March 2017 as the base year) stood at 109.8 in Aban, indicating a 1.3% increase compared with the previous month. The index registered a year-on-year increase of 9.6% compared with the similar month of last year.  The CBI report came after the Statistical Center of Iran put Aban inflation at 8.4%. 

S. Korea Shifting Iran Focus from Trade to Investment 

The South Korean ambassador to Iran said Seoul is shifting focus from trade to investment in Iran. Kim Seung-ho also told Mehr News Agency in an interview (Nov. 25) that Seoul is looking beyond trade. South Korea has increased its commercial exchanges with Iran after Tehran signed the nuclear deal with world powers in 2015. 

Iran Foreign Trade Up 8% 

Iran’s non-oil foreign trade during the first eight months of the current fiscal year (started March 21) stood at $60.9 billion, indicating an 8% rise compared with last year’s corresponding period. According to the latest report of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, exports hit 78.81 million tons worth $28.48 billion, indicating a 1.21% decline year-on-year. Imports amounted to 23.56 million tons worth $32.41 billion, up 17.52% year-on-year. Increased imports of basic goods, auto parts, cars and capital goods are behind the rise in imports (Nov. 28). 

Iran, Turkey, Qatar Sign Deal to Ease Doha Blockade 

Turkey, Iran and Qatar signed a transportation pact for boosting trade among the three countries (Nov. 28). Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and his Qatari counterpart Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani were in the Iranian capital Tehran to sign the agreement with Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari. Under the agreement, Iran will be the transit country between Turkey and Qatar. The deal is expected to help accelerate commodity delivery and facilitate trilateral trade. 

Iran-Russia Seesaw Trade Yet to Reach Full Potential 

Iran exported 298,204 tons of non-oil commodities worth $143.46 million to Russia during the seven months to Oct. 22, registering a 96.32% and 63.21% growth in volume and value respectively compared with last year’s corresponding period, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration announced (Nov. 25). This is while Iran’s imports from Russia during the same period stood at 909.328 tons worth $419.39 million, up 1.41% in volume but considerably down by 62.87% in value year-on-year. 

Bank Sepah Denies Credit Ban by Germany 

Iran’s Bank Sepah has dismissed a report that it had been slapped with sanctions by the German government for allegedly violating the country’s credit law (Nov. 18). Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post had claimed that Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) had announced a credit ban imposed on Iran’s Bank Sepah. 

ATR Says to Deliver 8 More Planes to Iran Soon 

European plane maker ATR says it plans to deliver eight more turboprop planes to Iran within the next few weeks (Nov. 14). The announcement was made by ATR Chief Executive Officer Christian Scherer who said the deliveries would be made under export licenses issued by the US Treasury Department following the lifting of international nuclear-related sanctions against Iran in 2016. 

India Opens New Transit Route to Afghanistan via Iran 

India has sent a ship of wheat to Iran to be transited to Afghanistan in what appears to be a dry run of a new multi-modal trade route that dodges Pakistan (Nov. 1). The ship arrived in Iran’s southeastern port of Chabahar from India’s western port of Kandla carrying 640 containers of wheat with a total weight of 15,000 tons. Indian officials, as reported by media, said the country’s maiden commercial shipment to Afghanistan through Iran was “a landmark moment”.  

EU Team in Tehran to Keep Budding Tie-Up Alive 

A 70-strong delegation of senior European officials and business leaders visited Tehran to examine capacities for further expansion of trade ties (Nov. 11). European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan headed the team which also included 25 senior political officials. 

IMF Unfazed by Trump Threats over Iran Plans 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says its policy in awarding loans to Iran will not change in the wake of increasing US pressures against a landmark nuclear deal that envisages facilitating post-sanctions financial transactions with the country (Oct. 15). IMF Chief Christine Lagarde has been quoted by media as saying that the fund would proceed with its regular Iran policy like it would do with all other member states. 

Russia to Link Iran to Global Payment Systems 

Iran says a cooperation agreement has been signed with a Russian provider of banking technological solutions to connect the country’s financial network with global payment systems (Oct. 13). The agreement was signed between Iran’s Informatics Services Corporation (ISC) and Russia’s BPC Group of Companies. Based on it, the two companies would cooperate in creating a standard banking card switch platform so as to provide a link between Iranian clients and international providers of financial services. 

Erdogan Sees Iran Trade Hitting $30 bn Soon 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees trade with Iran hitting the $30 billion mark “soon” as the two regional powers are shoring up relations on multiple fronts (Oct. 21). “With the large-scale planning which is underway, we will soon reach the sum of $30 billion in trade transactions between the two countries,” the Turkish leader told Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in Istanbul. 

Iran, Turkey Finalize Landmark Currency Swap Deal 

Iran and Turkey have finalized what could be a historic deal to trade in their local currencies instead of the euro and the dollar (Oct. 20). The deal was signed between the central banks of the two countries during a visit to Turkey by Jahangiri. It is expected to help Tehran and Ankara to triple the volume of their trade activities to as high as $30 billion from current $10 billion among other strategic benefits. 

Norway Defies Trump, Invests $4 Billion in Iran 

A Norwegian solar company has signed a $4-billion investment deal with Iran just days after President Trump calls for isolating Tehran (Oct. 18). Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and this is proof that we have taken the opening very seriously, and we will see more investment very soon,” AFP quoted Norway’s Ambassador to Tehran Lars Nordrum. 

Iran Exports Macaroni Wheat to Italy for First Time 

Iran has exported 31,000 tons of quality durum wheat to Italy for the first time, in another sign that the country’s food security drive is on target (Oct. 14). Exports of one million tons of surplus wheat to the countries of the region and Europe are scheduled, Managing Director of the Government Trading Corporation of Iran (GTC) Yazdan Seif was quoted as saying. 

Italy’s Azimut First Foreign Fund to Operate in Iran 

An Italian asset manager has purchased stakes in an Iranian financial company thus becoming the first foreign fund house to invest in the nation’s financial sector (Oct. 11). The Financial Times reported that Azimut, a €48-billion group headquartered in Milan, had acquired 20 percent of Mofid Entekhab, an Iranian asset manager, for an undisclosed sum. “We were looking for an opportunity to invest in a very interesting market. Iran is a great story,” it quoted Sergio Albarelli, chief executive of Azimut, as saying. 

Iran Air Receives Two New ATR Planes 

Franco-Italian aviation player ATR has delivered two more turboprop planes to Iran’s national flag-carrier airline Iran Air thus bringing the total number of deliveries to six from a package of 20. The planes can carry 70 passengers and would be used in flights over a maximum distance of 1,528 kilometers. Iran Air took delivery of the first four ATR aircraft in May, with the rest due to be handed over to the country by the end of 2018, including a further three this year (Sept. 29). 

Another EU Bank Unveils Plan to Fund Iran Projects 

France’s state investment bank Bpifrance says it plans to provide funds to French companies that invest in the Iranian economy from next year, becoming the third European bank to do so after similar moves were announced last week by banks from Austria and Denmark (Sept. 25). Bpifrance CEO Nicolas Dufourcq told reporters that his bank would grant up to €500 million ($598 million) in annual credits to companies that venture into the Iranian market. 

China Signs Deal to Provide Iran with $10 bn in Loans 

China has signed an agreement with Iran to provide a credit line of $10 billion for its infrastructure projects – what is seen as the biggest economic deal between the two countries after the removal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic in 2016. The agreement was signed (Sept. 15) between China’s CITIC Group Corporation and a consortium of Iranian banks that included Bank of Industry and Mine, Refah Bank, Parsian Bank, Bank Pasargad and Export Development Bank of Iran. 

Mercedes-Benz Inks Deal to Resume Iran Business 

Mercedes-Benz, a division of Daimler AG, has signed a contract with Iran Khodro to distribute its trucks in the Middle Eastern country, the German automaker has said (Sept. 13). The deal includes creating a joint venture to provide sales and after-sale services in the Islamic Republic, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported. Another deal will be signed next month to create a joint venture for production of heavy vehicles including Actors trucks in Iran, the report said. 

Russia to Give €1.2 bn to Iran for Power Plant Project 

Russia has taken the final step to grant a major loan to Iran for the development of a power plant in the country’s south thus moving close to a promise of providing the Islamic Republic with funds amounting to above €2 billion for infrastructure projects (Sept. 11). Russia’s government-owned Vnesheconombank, or the VEB, signed an agreement to the same effect with an Iranian bank over a loan worth €1.2 billion for the development of Hormuzgan thermal power plant on Persian Gulf coasts. 

Western Tourists See Iran as New ‘Bright Star’ 

Iran saw the number of Westerners visiting the ancient country with a treasure trove of historic artifacts grow more than five percent last year, data provided by leading travel intelligence analyst ForwardKeys showed (Sept. 9). Iran’s official figures were not immediately available but according to ForwardKeys CEO Olivier Jager, the political opening following the 2015 nuclear accord is making the country “an attractive place to visit and potentially do business.” 

Iran Discovers Huge Iron Ore Reserves in Yazd 

Iran has discovered a new iron ore mine in the central city of Yazd, estimated to hold 2 billion tons of reserves with iron content of 70 percent, an official said (Sept. 2). The reserves were discovered recently at a depth of 1,500 meters, Director General of Industry, Mine and Trade Department of Yazd Province Mohammad Reza Alamdar-Yazdi told a news conference.

 

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CURRENT ISSUE
   
  January 2018
No. 86