Economy, Domestic Economy

Hammond to Visit With Business Executives

Hammond to Visit With Business ExecutivesHammond to Visit With Business Executives

Energy company bosses and executives from major business lobbying groups in the UK will attend the reopening of Britain's Embassy in Tehran this weekend when London moves towards restoring full diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Reflecting the vast opportunities afforded by Iran's oil resources, the largest representation will be from the energy sector, Britain-based multi-media news operation Sky News reported.

Those joining UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will include Edward Daniels, Shell's executive vice-president for commercial and new business‎ development; an unnamed senior manager at Amec Foster Wheeler, the FTSE-100 energy infrastructure group; and ‎Vikas Handa, an executive at Weir Group, which provides services to the oil and gas industry.

Graham Cartledge, chairman of the architects Benoy and a regular attendee on ministers' overseas trade missions, will also be there, according to insiders.

The remaining delegates will be Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors; Anthony Browne, chief executive of the British Bankers' Association; and Simon Moore, international director of the Confederation of British Industry.

Sources cautioned that the list remained subject to change.

‎The business delegation accompanying Hammond is small owing to the difficulty of organizing a larger contingent at such short notice, Whitehall sources said.

Reopening of the embassy after four years will, ministers hope, be the prelude to ‎a significant trade push in the country.

Germany has already taken a more substantial business delegation to Tehran since ‎a deal was struck over Iran's nuclear program last month.

French and Italian ministers, and the European Union's foreign policy chief, have also held talks with Iranian counterparts in recent weeks.

There have been concerns - expressed by figures such as Lord Lamont, the former Chancellor‎ - that Britain risks missing out on the potential of business deals with Iran because it is slower to exploit such opportunities than European competitors.

Ali Akbar Ahsan, a partner at Magellan Capital, a firm with a long track record in Iran, said: "Historically the UK has been a major trading partner of Iran, behind Germany and France. Since reaching the JCPOA on 14th July, Germany, France and Italy have sent delegations to Iran, with the respective high level government delegations travelling with leading corporate names in an effort to position themselves for lucrative post-sanction deals. ‎The UK faces the danger of falling behind its European rivals, having done the hard work in enforcing the sanctions, it is not being as pro-active in positioning itself for a post-sanctions era.‎"

Hammond and the accompanying business delegates are due to meet a number of Iranian government ministers during their brief visit, which will be the first by a foreign secretary since Jack Straw went to Tehran in 2003.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on the individuals who would join Hammond in Tehran this weekend.