Firms looking to cash-in post Iran sanction lift. Sectors to benefit: Infrastructure, hospitality, and insurance - Lebanon

Firms looking to cash-in
post Iran sanction lift
Sectors to benefit: Infrastructure, hospitality, and insurance
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The private sector is ready to tap the Iranian market, once sanctions are lifted in early 2016, according to the timeline set by international negotiators.

Two economic delegations visited Iran this month, representing the private and public sectors, to explore investment opportunities. The official delegations headed by Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil included five senior officials from the ministry, and chairmen of economic bodies. It also included Lebanese businessmen from Africa and other countries. The private delegation included 30 businessmen from different sectors.

Iranian companies are looking for the Lebanese experience in management, creativity, and know-how in regional and international markets, said participants in the delegations.

Iran is heading towards privatization. “Industrialists have opportunities to acquire some of the factories that will be privatized, such as metal, cement, and advanced technology factories,” said Wajih Bizri, Chairman of the local chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce, and member of the delegation to Iran.

Iranians have many free economic zones on all borders. Locals will have opportunities to establish their companies in these tax-free zones.

According to Bizri, there is a shortage of restaurants and hotels in Iran, opening prospects to local entrepreneurs to invest in the country’s tourism, hospitality, and franchise sectors.

The infrastructure still requires more development. Bizri said that there is a need for roads, water treatment and wastewater projects. “Entrepreneurs from all countries are flooding to Iran. Locals should be aggressive to exploit this opportunity, without relying on the Government,” said Bizri.

The delegations also discovered several opportunities in the services sector, mainly in insurance. “Iranians are waiting for the issuance of the decision to remove the sanctions to partner with reinsurance companies,” said Antoine Issa, CEO of the MENA region at Allianz SNA. Issa said that insurance penetration rates are still low in Iran and growth expectations are high. Life and medical insurance are still limited there.

Local entrepreneurs can own and develop property there by establishing real estate companies. Joe Kenaan, Chairman of Sodeco Gestion, said that they have discovered opportunities in the property management sector. “Only specialists can penetrate Iran, because Iranian real estate companies are mature, but they need management expertise,” he said.

There is opportunity to increase trade between both countries. The trade balance between Lebanon and Iran is still very low, imports only reached $50 million and exports $3 million in 2014.
Reported by Rania Ghanem
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Date Posted: Dec 14, 2015