French companies back to Iranian market
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The next step was taken by French companies. On Monday, top officials from more than 150 French companies, currently in Tehran, discussed investment prospects in oil, gas and other fields as well as issues pertaining to capital market in a conference.
On the sidelines, some of the visiting officials talked to Iran Daily about their future plans. What follows is an excerpt of their interviews:
Total willing to return
Eric Festa, the director general of Total E&P Iran, said currently, the company has to comply with international sanctions on Iran.
“Following the lifting of the embargoes, we will begin studying Iranian projects to be offered by the National Iranian Oil Company and will select those which are of mutual interest for both sides. We are willing to expand cooperation.”
He added his company is optimistic about the latest developments in Iran’s international relations as things will open up and his company will be able to work in the country again.
“We are interested in returning to in Iran’s market when we will be allowed to do so. At present, we are not permitted to begin collaboration with Iranian companies due to the barriers caused by international restrictions. The removal of the embargoes, which may happen perhaps next year, will enable us to return to Iran’s market and resume our activities.”
Ground ready for more cooperation
Altereo Company is mainly involved in activities pertaining to environment and water, said Christian Laplaud, the company’s president and director general.
Laplaud, who is also the chairman of the National Strategic Committee for the Water Industry, noted that in France, several projects are offered to environmental management system companies, like his company.
“The projects implemented by my company mainly include improving the efficiency of water networks. We have developed a geographic information system to improve the knowledge of urban and rural water networks and also their condition.”
Globally speaking, he said, water leakage is a huge problem of the water networks and pipelines, adding perhaps, 50 percent of the water flowing through pipes is lost due to leakage.
“As a new project undertaken by my company, currently, we provide water utility allowing for a reduction in the amount of leakage by issuing alerts in real time. We have great knowledge and considerable experience in wastewater and water treatment.”
Laplaud said on Monday that he held talks with 15 Iranian company managers and officials on this issue, adding some of them were very interested in his company’s products and expertise.
“We are going to sign one or perhaps two MoUs on joint ventures. In the meetings, Iranian officials sought our consultation to find solutions for a number of the country’s water problems.”
He said the ground is prepared for further cooperation.
“At present, we have to choose which project is more suitable for us. We are very determined to boost collaboration. Since we do not want to make promises we cannot fulfill, we will have to carry out a comprehensive studies before selecting the projects in which we can play a supporting and useful role.”
Laplaud added at present, Iran is faced with some major environmental issues pertaining to its wastewater treatment systems and water catchment problems such as the drying up of Lake Orumieh.
He said French companies possess advanced technologies and methodologies which can greatly help Iran resolve its environmental issues by optimizing its agriculture through industrial utilization of water in farmlands.
Iran has highly educated people
“My company consists of a group of small enterprises in France which supply turnkey plants for the production of construction materials, particularly used in concrete industry,” said Yann Jaubert, the president and director general of Materials Technologies.
He added his company mainly delivers block making machines.
“So far we have had very fruitful meetings and were warmly welcomed by the Iranian authorities including ministers and those of the business community. We are very honored to be a part of this French delegation and have the chance to visit Iran.”
Iran has a huge and thriving market, he said, adding Iranian people have high expectations for their market at present.
“To gain a foothold in this market, we have to be competitive. We are here to demonstrate that French companies can provide the Iranian market with modern technologies and know and help them further develop.”
Mutual understanding is the basis for forming strategic partnership, he noted.
Iranian culture is very ancient and sophisticated and shares many commonalities with French culture, he observed.
Jaubert added Iran has a large number of highly educated people with whom it is very pleasant to discuss.
“They are very easy to understand which is very important for forging strategic partnership. I am very optimistic. We have been investigating the Iranian market for more than two years now and have an Iranian agent here. Negotiations are currently underway with a number of companies with whom signing deals is quite probable.”
Frankly speaking, he said, at present, banking restrictions have hindered expansion of cooperation with Iranian firms.
“This obstacle burdens all the financial transactions. Although, we clearly respect all the political constraints, at the end of the day, it is quite difficult to receive the payments made by our Iranian counterpart. We are highly eager to know when the sanctions will end.”
He stressed that the Iranian market will need to evolve smoothly step by step.
“I am sure that very soon Iranian companies can become chief competitors for French companies. We welcome this as a part of the game.”
Peugeot certain to reach accord with Iran
Ageromys International is a consulting firm providing European, particularly French companies, with information about Iran’s market, said Michel Makinsky, the company’s director-general and chief executive officer.
“I am working for a French think tank focusing on Iran’s economy and politics. Two years ago, I set up a small consultancy company focusing on French companies which either are already working in Iran or intend to enter the country’s market. As for investments, I advise French company owners on how to match the Iranian government’s priorities.”
On the delegation’s visit to Iran, he said it marks a major turning point in the exchange of delegations between the two countries, given the presence of two French ministers in the team and the number of members accompanying it.
Commenting on the outcome of the trip to Iran he noted, “It is a bit early to assess the results of the visit. We need to wait until the end of it. There are obviously specific outcomes for a certain number of companies which have in the meantime held private meetings and negotiations with their Iranian partners.”
He added the Iranian side demonstrates a strong will for cooperation.
“In the meetings held so far, some Iranian firms did not have a clear and precise strategy. They are required to first identify their targets and then brief us on their goals. This is while, some mature Iranian companies have already mapped out their strategies and precisely know what they want. But some of them are simply fishing for opportunities. As for these companies, we simply changed cards and the outcomes of the meetings were not very much fruitful.”
They need to have more organizations to find a firm ground for negotiations, he underlined.
Makinsky added currently, many competitors are rushing to sign contracts with Iranian companies.
“The competition is very stiff. The Iranian side perfectly knows that there are lots of competitors and seeks to fully use this opportunity.”
He noted while for 80 percent of the Iranian and French companies this is just business, for three or four, leading groups such as Peugeot, the political context also plays a role.
“I am very confident that Peugeot will reach an agreement with Iran. However, their entrance ticket will be expensive. Following the intensification of the sanctions, Peugeot left Iran in a matter of 8 days. They will certainly sign a deal because Iranian customers are furious about Chinese spare parts.”
Iran’s market has huge potentials
Naphto Mines Contractors is a company specializing in oil and gas sectors, power generation, mines and consulting services, said Stanislas Houel, the firm’s business development manager.
“I have been exploring Iran’s market for several years to find ways for cooperation in the said fields of activities. I am quite happy that my country has dispatched such a big delegation to Iran, showing a new interest for further collaboration with the country.”
He said he had met officials of some Iranian companies involved in his fields of activity, adding by attending the meeting he sought to learn more about the expectations of the French companies who have newly arrived Iran.
“We are mulling over making investments in Iran’s market. It is still quite complicated for European companies to make any decisions in this regard due to the sanctions. We do not have the support of European banks in this regard. My company is exploring other possibilities through other countries.”
Iran’s market has huge potentials, he said, adding, “We need to find reliable and good partners to implement joint projects here.
“All the Iranian people I have met so far are very well educated. The country has a large number of engineers.”
Immediate investment improbable
Primetals Technologies supplies steel industries processing lines with the technology and knowhow for making galvanized, aniline or painted products, said François Mignard, the company’s chief executive officer.
“So far, the visit has been excellent and well-organized. The delegation has attended meetings and presentations by Iranian government members which were quite interesting and fruitful.”
Market development is linked to the technology, he said, adding, French companies could provide Iranian firms with modern technologies and transfer their knowledge to the country’s industrial sector in the field of metallurgy.
“We introduced the first electric arc furnace in 2006 which is used for the food industry and packaging industries. I think connections between the two countries will not remain at the level of talks.
French businessmen and diplomats are making strong efforts to resume presence in the Iranian market.
He noted the prospect of immediate investment is a remote idea, adding, it will take perhaps more than two years to fund any Iranian project.