Law firm Burness Paull is urging Scottish firms to engage with Iranian partners following the lifting of European Union and US sanctions in January. The move – after Tehran fulfilled its obligations under a United Nations nuclear accord – allows UK and EU companies to pursue mergers and acquisitions, exports and other opportunities in Iran – a vast country with a population of 78 million and the world’s fourth highest estimated proven oil reserves and second highest proven gas reserves, reports Herald Scotland.
“It is one of the biggest oil and gas countries in the world,” said Jamie Stark, a partner at Burness Paull specializing in oil and gas services and regulatory compliance. “Coupled with the fact that it’s had no external investment or access to new technologies or skilled people for a good ten years, that’s an opportunity. Iran has also stated its intention to significantly increase its oil and gas output. That will mean that it has to access new technologies and investment into its aged infrastructure.”
Mr Stark was to speak at a Burness Paull event in Aberdeen Thursday evening titled “Iran – New Markets & New Opportunities”. Introduced by Energy Voice journalist Rita Brown, the event included Stacey Winters, a partner in accountancy firm Deloitte and leader in global export control and sanctions, and Iranian-born businessmen Ali and Mike Afshar, who run the Edinburgh-based property business, AMA Homes.
“Construction and building is one of the key areas where there’s been a lack of investment,” Mr Stark continued. “The other areas we’ll be focusing on separately include the growing automobile industry, as well as strong demand in the food industry. The food industry may be of particular interest to Scottish businesses. Iran is a huge country and they are crying out for all of that.”
Ali Afshar and his brother Mike were sent to boarding school in Scotland in the early 1970s and have lived in Scotland for 45 years.
“We’ve been going back and forward to Iran quite a lot and are seeing opportunities there,” Ali Afshar said. “The big contracts that are being signed at the moment by big oil companies and governments might take two to three years to mature and go on site. Then second and third tier businesses that have partnered with counterpart businesses in Iran will be in a position to bid for secondary contracts with the big oil companies. The opportunity is to try and engage with local businesses [in Scotland] to partner with Iranian companies to be ready to bid for these future contracts.”
A key attraction of Iran was its workforce, Mr Afshar added. “More than 50 per cent of the population in Iran is under the age of 35,” he said. “They’re very highly educated and very keen to engage, so the prospects there going forward are enormous, obviously if the political situation stays stable the way it has been for the past couple of years.”
To encourage overseas investment, Mr Afshar said Tehran was guaranteeing the capital and profits of inward investors. Tax breaks are also available for the first four years, according to the paper.