Iran is stepping up efforts to implement a landmark nuclear deal by January so as to benefit from sanctions relief, with European companies lining up for what one investor described as the most attractive opportunity in frontier markets globally. President Hassan Rouhani, who is visiting New York to speak at the UN general assembly next week, said at a meeting with journalists and media executives on Friday that “conditions were ripe” for his administration to start implementing the agreement, struck in Vienna in July, by the end of the year.
His comments were echoed by business leaders and world investors participating in the first international conference studying investment and trade opportunities in Iran since the nuclear accord. The second Europe-Iran forum took place over the course of two days in Geneva, ending on Friday. European corporations have already begun pursuing lucrative contracts in Iran. Philippe Delleur, the president of Alstom – the French electricity generation and rail transport firm – was in the French delegation visiting Tehran earlier this week. He was participating in the Geneva forum to meet other investors.
“We have a very positive reputation because of our past projects in Iran but of course we had to restrict our activities according to the international sanctions,” he told the Guardian. “And now we are very happy to see that sanctions are going to end and once they are lifted we would be happy to resume our activities.” Alstom had maintained its office in Tehran even during sanctions. It is now focusing on railway projects and is hoping to work on expansion of the metro in Tehran and building two more lines in the city of Mashhad as well as participating in the electrification of the 1,000km (600-mile) Tehran-Mashhad railway. It also wants to build a very high speed line between Tehran and popular tourist destination Isfahan.
Delleur said: “Alstom aims to provide all type of equipment for electrification, for the signalling and for rolling stock in these projects. But we will do nothing before the time sanctions are lifted.
“We are used to cooperating with Iranians, we’ve had excellent Iranian engineers in our companies and we are sure to be able to partner with Iranians again. We’re quite confident when sanctions are lifted our presence will grow.”
The French industrial group Bouygues and Aéroports de Paris are in talks with Iran to construct the country’s largest transport project, the second terminal at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini international airport. Bouygues, which recently opened an office in Tehran, also has its eyes on Iran’s need for 7,000 more hospital beds, or more than 15 institutions.
Alisher Ali, the founder of Mandalay Capital, based in Malta, said his firm had already invested in a number of banks and holding companies listed on the Tehran stock exchange. “I think Iran represents the biggest opportunity in frontier markets globally,” he said. “Out of 40 [or] 30 frontier-market countries, Iran is the most attractive.”On 18 October, dubbed adoption day, Iran will begin taking steps to meet its obligations under the nuclear accord and the US will issue some waivers for specific sanctions. But the defining moment is what has become known as implementation day, when the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Tehran has taken the necessary steps.