January 22, 2019

French Oil Firm May Leave Iran

17 May 2018, 05:56 | Joann Bryant

Total will not risk investing in Iran due to US sanctions, unless it gets a waiver

Middle East: French oil big Complete could ditch Iran gasoline challenge over US sanctions menace

French oil and energy company Total said on Wednesday that may pull out of the Iran South Pars 11 energy project, in light of a decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw from an global nuclear deal with Iran.

Total said the South Pars project puts at risk the company's large operations in the United States and reliance on US banks for financing of 90 percent of its operations.

US banks are involved in more than 90 percent of Total's financing operations, while USA shareholders represent more than 30 percent of its shareholding, according to the company.

"This project waiver should include protection of the company from any secondary sanction as per USA legislation".

Determined to keep the accord alive, European leaders need to find a way to assure companies that their investments are beyond Washington's extra-territorial reach.

Denmark's Maersk Tankers, a major global shipping company whose oil tankers help carry Iran's oil exports to Asian markets, has also announced that it will wind down its business with Iran by November.

Total said it would not be making any further commitments towards the Iranian South Pars project for now, and added it was engaged with French and United States authorities over the possibility of a waiver to the project. Joe Kaeser, the CEO of Germany's Siemens (SIEGn.DE), told CNN his company would not be able to do any new business with Tehran. Russian Federation has also said it remains committed to the deal. The company has a few options if they leave.

When the Iran agreement was signed and sanctions were ended, Total was among the first corporations to sign business agreements with the Iranian government. Total does about 30 percent of its business through the U.S. banking system.

"The fines are in the multibillions these days so it's just not worth the risk for a small piece of business and maybe pleasing a (European) government".

A European diplomat was more blunt: "We have a situation where there is a will to impose sanctions on Europeans and a resentment towards European companies who are now being accused of supporting a terrorist state".

Total's $2 billion deal with Tehran was in partnership with Petrochina, a subsidiary of China's largest oil and gas company, CNPC. "With that in mind it's a logical decision".

The U.S. sanctions essentially force most global companies to give up doing business in Iran if they want to continue operating in the United States. Total owns 50 percent of the project with a Chinese company owning a 30 percent stake.

Officials in China and Russian Federation have indicated they will resist USA sanctions and capitalize on the void created if European companies withdraw from the Iranian market.

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