Asia's June Iran Crude Imports Up 47%

Asia's June Iran Crude Imports Up 47%Asia's June Iran Crude Imports Up 47%

Iranian oil purchase by four major buyers in Asia in June jumped 47.1% from a year ago to the highest level in more than four years, further evidence that Tehran's determination to recover market share lost under the spell of sanctions is paying off.

The four countries, South Korea, Japan, China and India, imported 1.72 million barrels per day in June, government and ship-tracking data showed, Reuters reported.

Tehran's oil sales hit 4-1/2 year high in June, nearly doubling since December as sanctions were lifted on its oil exports in January.

Japan's Ministry of Trade Friday released official data showing its imports almost tripled from a year earlier to 275,000 bpd last month.

Iran is regaining market share at a faster pace than analysts had projected since international restrictions related to its nuclear program were lifted in January, helped by securing more tankers through a temporary shipping insurance fix.

Robust Iranian oil sales may continue as OPEC producers cut prices for August crude sales to Asia, the Mediterranean and from the port of Sidi Kerir in Egypt, in a continuing effort to regain market share in these regions post-sanctions.

Iran has also attracted new customers in countries such as Poland and spurred higher demand from existing buyers in Asia.

------ New Customer in Japan

Iran has also gained new customers this year. Japanese oil refiner TonenGeneral Sekiyu has bought its first oil from Iran since becoming independent from US oil major Exxon Mobil Corp, three industry sources familiar with the matter said.

The company bought the Iranian spot cargo through a trading house due to attractive pricing and the shipment arrived Japan earlier this month, the sources said.

TonenGeneral, formerly a unit of Exxon Mobil, previously could not buy Iranian oil due to its affiliation with the US oil company. It bought a controlling stake in itself from Exxon in 2012, reducing Exxon's stake from 50% to 22% as the oil major pulled back from Japan due to the country's declining oil demand.

Exxon Mobil has since sold that remaining stake in Japan's second-biggest oil refiner by capacity, shedding its last holding in TonenGeneral by early this year.

TonenGeneral Sekiyu, an aggressive buyer of cheaper crude grades, is known for having one of Japan's highest ratios of spot crude compared to term volumes, and will consider buying more Iranian oil depending on economics, the sources said.