Friday, July 17, 2015

Iran deal, Who get's to the riches first?

With the Iranian nuclear deal steadily progressing, there are reports on western oil companies trying to make deals with Iran on developing their oil and gas production. I found two conflicting reports on who's in the lead, European or US companies.

The Economist wrote a few months ago:
American officials, for their part, are diligently tightening the screws. When a large delegation of French businessmen returned from Tehran last year, many were warned by the American embassy in Paris that they should tread carefully and not sign preliminary contracts in Iran if they wanted to retain access to American financial markets. A group of Germans received a similar warning a few months later. The thought of having their dollars frozen under American banking sanctions, or of being locked out of America’s capital markets altogether, has cooled enthusiasm for doing business in Iran. 
Yet some foreign businessmen moan that American companies are not playing by the same rules. Rather than operate openly in Iran, many American firms are busily using local front men. One such middleman in the oil and banking business, who is a frequent visitor to Iran’s oil ministry, says prime contracts have already been snapped up. “If there is a nuclear deal, you will find overnight that the Americans have signed one-year options on the best projects,” he says. “The Europeans will be queuing up, but they will end up negotiating with Exxon Mobil and Chevron, just as happened in Libya.”
Such talk is particularly galling to companies from Western countries that were reluctantly pulled into applying sanctions. “We can’t help but think we have been played by the Americans,” says one European business leader.
Yet the Financial Times writes,
For the likes of Royal Dutch Shell, Eni of Italy and France’s Total, among those whose officials have met Iranian counterparts in Tehran, that day may be months away. Negotiations with US energy groups — absent since the nationalisations that followed the 1979 Islamic revolution — could be even further off. A complex range of restrictions will need to be rolled back in the US.
and further
Legislation and executive orders impose such wide-ranging restrictions on US business dealings with the country that American companies take them to mean that even hypothetical discussions about post-sanctions contracts are illegal. Not one US oil company says it has held talks about possible deals with Iran. Exxon’s understanding of the law is that its executives are barred from talking about business with any Iranian officials. Chevron says that it “acts in full compliance with US law and does not engage in business discussions with Iran.” Conoco, similarly, says it is not engaged in any such talks.
I find the FT report more convincing. The one "middleman" the Economist puts forward doesn't sound very credible when saying that contracts have already been "snapped up".  The rest sounds very speculative (I'm not familiar with the case of Libya or which time period this person was referring to, but probably the time that Ghadaffi signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and became a 'respectable' leader again).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reactions welcome! Please use your full name.