Domestic Economy

Investment Opportunities Surveyed in New Economic Climate

Investment Opportunities Surveyed  in New Economic ClimateInvestment Opportunities Surveyed  in New Economic Climate

Iranian and European officials discussed avenues of cooperation in the new economic climate following the landmark nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers on July 14.

The deal will ease economic sanctions against curbs on the country's nuclear program.

Members of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mining and Agriculture met with the ambassadors, charge d'affaires and commercial attachés of nine European countries in Tehran on Wednesday.

The meeting was attended by envoys from Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Italy, Switzerlan, France, Hungary and Belgium, during which the European officials expressed their respective countries' readiness to enter into joint ventures with Iranian firms.

"The great wall of mistrust between Iran and the West has broken," said chairman of TCCIMA, Masoud Khansari, adding that close to a decade of economic sanctions has hampered Iran's economic growth, but now in the post-sanctions era, the country seeks to move towards growth and development at full throttle.

According to Khansari, the Iranian private sector seeks joint ventures with large, prominent European firms, and has the entire infrastructure ready for absorbing foreign investments. "This is a win-win situation for Iran and Europe," he said.

Belgian Ambassador to Iran Francois del Marmol pointed to Iran's potential for economic growth after the lifting of sanctions, and said: "Iran's young, motivated and educated population is its greatest wealth."

Noting that European firms prefer to work in a simple and transparent economy, Marmol called on Iranian officials to remove the bureaucratic obstacles and assure the Europeans of economic stability in Iran.

Underlining tourism as an important sector in post-sanctions Iran, the Belgian envoy said Iran can draw on tourism to send out a positive picture of the country and dispel the unfavorable views that have taken shape in recent years.

German Ambassador Micheal Baron von Ungern Sternberg said: "There are great opportunities in Iran for trade and cooperation due to the country's skilled and educated workforce. However, there are obstacles to overcome, especially in the banking sector, before the potential can be fully exploited."

He invited Iranian officials and companies to visit Germany and directly discuss cooperation and investment with their German counterparts.

Austrian Ambassador to Iran Friedrich Stift said Iran and Austria can soon restore their ties to the pre-sanctions level by expanding cooperation between the two countries' private sectors.

"On this note, we are going to double the number of Tehran-Vienna weekly flights to 12," Stift said.

He announced that an Austrian trade delegation is scheduled to visit Tehran in three weeks' time.

"An Iranian trade delegation of officials from the Ministry of Industries, Mining and trade are to visit Vienna in two months to discuss cooperation in energy, environment, tourism and infrastructure sectors," he said.

In separate remarks, TCCIMA members outlined Iran's various potential areas for investment.

> Tourism

Based on the 20-Year National Vision Plan (2005-25), Iran seeks to increase the number of tourists visiting the country to 20 million per year, said deputy chairman of TCCIMA, Mehdi Jahangiri.

According to the official, there are currently 130 four- and five-star hotels in Iran and this number is to increase to 400 in the near future to accommodate the ever-growing number of tourists visiting the country. He called for attracting foreign investments in this sector.

Jahangiri noted that the main issue hindering tourism in Iran is the negative outlook of foreigners toward the country.

"Now that Iran and the world are properly communicating again, European envoys and foreign officials visiting Iran can convey the true Iran of today to the world," he said.

> Transportation

"Iran's strategic location in the region offers a great opportunity for international trade and transit through the country," said a member of TCCIMA's board of directors, Seyedeh Fatemeh Moqimi.

Moqimi said shared borders with 15 countries, access to international waters from both north and south of the country, a developed national railroad network, safe and secure roads as well as well-equipped and advanced airports are some of the advantages of Iran in goods transit.

> Mining

Another member of the board of directors, Mohammad Reza Bahraman, said Iran seeks huge investments in the mining sector, noting that with 60 billion tons of mineral reserves (excluding oil and gas), Iran is the 15th biggest mineral-rich country in the world and intends to fully exploit this potential.

"Currently, there are 100 exploration zones spread over 360,000 square kilometers across the country, 58 of which covering 290,000 square kilometers have been taken over by the private sector," he said.

"Absorbing investments in exploration and exploitation projects of copper, phosphate, nickel, bauxite, molybdenum, iron ore, coal, brine, zinc, lead and gemstones are top priorities."

Bahraman noted that foreign firms can assume full ownership of exploration, exploitation and processing projects in Iran.

> Energy Sector

Alireza Darvish, a member of the board of directors of the Society of Iranian Petroleum Industry Equipment Manufactures, invited foreign firms to enter into joint ventures with Iranian firms in producing industrial equipment and conducting research in the field.

Iran's revised oil contract, known as Iran Petroleum Contract or IPC, is aimed at accelerating the development of oil and gas fields, making up for underdevelopment of joint fields over the past few years and employing new, advanced technologies in the energy sector.

Tehran has sweetened the terms of the new contract to attract billions of dollars in foreign direct investment for up to 50 oil exploration and production projects, according to officials.

> Financial Market

Ali Sanginian, a member of TCCIMA and the chairman of Money and Capital Market Commission, said Iranian private banks, insurance companies and stock exchange are potential areas for foreign investment.

Iran enjoys a stock market with over $90 billion market cap and 500 companies listed.

Chief executive officer of Tehran Stock Exchange, Hassan Qalibaf Asl, recently said some 50 international investors received the approval to trade on the exchange in the past six months and are now awaiting the end of sanctions.

Charlemagne Capital Ltd is among international investors that said the opening of the Iranian market is too big an opportunity to miss. It said in April it was working with a firm in Tehran to start a sanctions-compliant fund.

“It’s very rare to find an early-stage market with all this infrastructure that’s very well developed locally,” Dominic Bokor-Ingram, a portfolio adviser at Charlemagne Capital, said. “It’s also a very diversified economy, probably one of the most diversified in the world.”

> Petrochemicals

Iran's petrochemical production capacity currently stands at 60 million tons per year, said a petrochemicals industry expert, Mehdi Sharifi Niknafs, adding that based on the sixth five-year development plan (2016-21), this figure is expected to rise to 120 million tons.

Niknafs added that Europe can have a share of this growing industry through joint ventures and financing.