Can Blocking Regulations Help Europe Protect Its Iran Business From Trump?

◢ In the last week, European business leaders and policymakers have grown more vocal about the possibility that the European Union would employ blocking regulations to protect European businesses from the reach of US secondary sanctions on Iran.

◢ Despite limits to their legal effectiveness, blocking regulations can serve as part of the suite of political, legal, and commercial measures employed by European governments to protect their businesses in Iran.

Total CEO Pouyanné Considers Measures to Protect European Business in Iran

◢ In a major interview given to French newspaper Le Monde, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné was asked about the “American threat” to the company’s “important gas project” in Iran.

◢ Pouyanné’s forthright response marks perhaps the first time that a major European executive has publicly called for a diplomatic intervention to protect commercial interests in Iran. He points to the 1990s blocking statutes and sanctions waivers as a potential tool in the current environment. 

In First Survey Since Iran Protests, Expressions of Solidarity as Economic Outlook Darkens

◢ A timely new survey published by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) offers the first insights into Iranian public sentiments following last month’s protests. 

◢ The results underscore the central role that economic frustration played in the recent mobilizations and illuminate a common thread of economic frustration. A clear 58 percent of respondents believe that Iran's economic conditions are worsening, the highest proportion since May 2015.

As Delays Mount in Iran, Executives and Employers Face Tough Career Choices

◢ In multinational companies, the prospect of earning a promotion is largely tied to the ability to meet targets and hit milestones with speed. For exectuives, working on Iran-related projects in the present environment makes this difficult to do.

◢ For employers, longer project timeframes make management and staffing more difficult. In the current environment, the main concern around human resource management is not recruitment, but retention. To improve retention, companies finding ways to encourage and reward persistence

Iran's Entekhab Set to Acquire Dongbu Daewoo In a Tale of Unfinished Business

◢ Iran’s Entekhab Industrial Group is reportedly poised to acquire majority ownership of Dongbu Daewoo, a manufacturer of appliances and consumer durables, beginning a new chapter in an already complicated saga.

◢ Entekhab, Iran’s leading appliance manufacturer, first sought to acquire Daewoo in 2010 for USD 513 million. Eight years later, a new bid has been made, reportedly for USD 188 million. If the deal goes through, it would be a rare example of an Iranian firm on the buy-side of cross-border M&A. 

Iran's E-Commerce and App Store Giants Continue March to Unicorn Valuations

◢ Two new investments by a Dutch-registered company have pushed Digikala and Café Bazaar to historic new valuations. Iran's e-commerce leader and largest app store are no longer the visionary startups of a few years ago, but rather ambitious and established enterprises. 

◢ The investments were completed discretely, but point back to Sarava, which has reportedly raised new capital in Europe. The venture capital firm is poised to further expand its dominance in Iran's tech sector.

Iranian-Made Exoskeleton Highlights Potential for Hardware Start-Ups

◢ A new crop of entrepreneurs are making Iran into a hub for hardware development, drawing on the country’s deep pool of mechanical and electrical engineering talent.

◢ One such company is Pedasys, which has designed and manufactured a lower-body exoskeleton to allow paraplegic or elderly individuals who are lower-limb disabled to walk. The company is backed by Shenasa, the venture fund of Pasargad Financial Group.

Iranian Protests And The Working Class

◢ There is growing consensus that the core constituency of the recent wave of protests in Iran is working class youth who feel "forgotten" in the country's economic plan. 

◢ The expected post-sanctions windfall has yet to materialize and the Rouhani administration will need to decide whether it will compromise on its austerity-type budgets in order to offer some near-term economic relief. 

Australia's MRC to Spend $2.4 Million on Further Iran Mining Exploration in 2018

◢ Mineral Commodities Limited, a listed Australian junior mining company, has entered the Iranian market. MRC has signed agreements that give it rights to majority stakes in two mining projects producing gold and copper in the northwest of Iran. 

◢ The company has reviewed thirty projects so far, and has earmarked a USD 2.4 million dollars for further exploration in 2018. 

Unilever and Golestan Strike New Joint Venture As Iran’s FMCG Market Accelerates

◢ Unilever has entered into a new joint venture with Iran's Golestan Company. The partners will develop and manufacture new food brands and product lines for the Iranian market. 

◢ The decision to enter into a joint venture reflects a rising trend among international FMCG companies active in Iran. A combination of political circumstances, commercial drivers, and consumer preferences have encouraged ownership of local manufacturing interests. 

Autoneum Deal Underscores Huge Potential in Iranian Auto Parts Industry

◢ Swiss auto parts company Autoneum has entered into a new license agreement with Ayegh Khodro Toos to manufacture components for a new locally-produced Peugeot SUV beginning in 2019.

◢ The deal points to the potential in Iran's auto parts sector, where private sector companies, which are often SMEs with specific areas of expertise, dominate. Projections suggest exports of Iranian auto parts could rise to USD 6 billion by 2025. 

American Medical Company Second Sight Enters Iranian Market

◢ Second Sight has entered the Iranian market with two procedures in Shiraz. Patients were implanted with the Argus II system, which provides an artificial form of useful vision to those suffering from degenerative loss of sight. 

◢ The company entered into a partnership with Iranian firm Arshia Gostar Darman in 2016 and holds a license from the U.S. Department of Treasury that permits the sale of its devices Iran. 

Rentierism and Rivalry Between Riyadh and Tehran

◢ Though widely described as move to consolidate political power, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's  decision to arrest members of the Saudi elite points to anxiety about Saudi Arabia's economic prospects and the risks of rentierism. 

◢ The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is driven by the fact that the Kingdom is increasingly economically vulnerable at a time when Iran's fortunes are set to improve. 

Oil Giant Total Takes to Twitter to Underscore Iran Commitment

◢ In a series of tweets published on Tuesday, Total's press office pushed back on reports that the company is rethinking its Iran strategy in light of pressure from the United States. 

◢ The tweets emphasize that Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné sees no political barriers to the South Pars gas deal, and is simply waiting to see whether following Congressional action legal conditions will allow the deal to move forward. 

Iran Starved of Investor Capital Needed to Fuel Extensive Privatizations

◢ Morteza Lotfi, the newly appointed head of SHASTA has recently announced a new effort for SHASTA to divest from a large portion of its portfolio, offering a second chance at the privatizations pursued a decade ago. 

◢ But political barriers and a dearth of capital, particularly from foreign investors, risks rendering SHASTA's plan dead on arrival as Iran seeks to liberalize without crucial liquidity.

Killing Iran’s Economy Won’t Help the U.S.

◢ The Trump administration's new Iran policy focuses largely on targeting the IRGC in the name of American national security. But IRGC will not stop its expansionism in the Middle East because of sanctions and sanctions will not weaken the Iranian government at home.

◢ If the Trump administration continues to harm Iran's economy, the biggest losers will be the Iranian people, caught between punitive U.S. policies and an illiberal regime. 

Iran Sanctions Policy Increasingly Throttles Free Trade in Ideas

◢ Since 1988, the Berman Amendment has limited the authority of the President to restrict the exchange of information as part of American sanctions policy. 

◢ But the new sanctions designation of the IRGC and recent voluntary actions by American companies suggest that the long standing protection for the free trade of ideas is under threat, as OFAC seems less willing to provide clear protections. 

In Reprieve for Multinational Business, Trump to Stave Snapback of Iran Sanctions

◢ Later today, President Trump will decertify Iran's compliance with the JCPOA on national security grounds. However, early reporting based on background briefings provided to European officials makes clear that administration does not intend to walk away from the Iran Deal.

◢ Instead, Trump is pushing the issue of Iran policy to Congress, recommending new actions to counteract Iran, but not going so far as to recommend the full "snapback" of sanctions.

Majority of Business Leaders Blame Trump for Slow Iran Investments

◢ A new survey by Bourse & Bazaar and IranPoll finds that business leaders believe Trump's rhetoric has slowed the pace of trade and investment by multinational companies in Iran.

◢ However, the results come at a time when the underlying commercial momentum seems strong. This suggests that Trump's words are having an impact not on those most directly working with Iran, but on the stakeholders on whom they rely.