Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

January 23, 2014

Businesses rushing to find Iran bonanza

BRUSSELS (AP) — France is sending business executives by the planeload to Iran. German and Dutch entrepreneurs are taking courses on how to close a deal in Tehran, and car makers are drawing up plans for investment.

Europe’s business community is abuzz with preparations to rush back into Iran, an economic powerhouse in the Middle East, as some sanctions are suspended. And the interest is welcome — Iran is desperate to revive its economy after years of international isolation.

Under a deal with world powers, Tehran has agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief and the unfreezing of about $4.2 billion in overseas assets. Iran and world powers now have six months to conclude a permanent deal.

As always, in business, it’s about getting in first.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland’s Davos ski resort to meet with the world’s business elite, likely to discuss trade opportunities.

More hand-shaking will take place soon thereafter in Tehran, when France’s business lobby group flies in executives representing about 100 firms for “exploratory” talks to take advantage of the sanctions’ suspension, an official with the organization said.

Competitors are doing the same, so firms from the oil and gas sector, carmakers and other manufacturing companies want to move quickly, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject remains sensitive within governments.

“Everyone is in the same state of mind,” she said.

THE OPPORTUNITY

For businesses, getting into Iran is a chance not to be missed. The country boasts a well-educated population of about 75 million and some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, much of which is still unexplored due to decades of sanctions since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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