A Swiss bank on May 29 suspended new transactions with Iran and said it was winding down Iran-related activities while two Indian banks reportedly asked exporters to complete their financial transactions with Iran by August.
The moves from Swiss lender Banque de Commerce et de Placements (BCP) and India’s IndusInd and UCO come in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that Washington is unilaterally withdrawing from the multilateral Ian nuclear deal and is preparing to impose highest-level sanctions on Iran, with sanctions to be extended to foreign traders and investors who remain in business with the Islamic Republic. Iran retains firm hopes that at least China and India—the two biggest markets for its vital oil exports—will pay little heed to the US sanctions while the European Union and Russia are working out what practical protection they can offer their firms from secondary sanctions stemming from the American action against Iran.
Geneva-headquartered BCP, founded in 1963, has been among the players active in Iran-related trade finance in commodities, finance sources told Reuters.
“We have suspended any new transaction related to Iran after May 8, 2018 and started the ‘wind down period’ within the framework of the OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury] announcement,” BCP said in an emailed statement to the news agency.
The Federation of Indian Exporters Organisation (FIEO) told Reuters that the IndusInd and UCO banks, which facilitate trade with Iran, have informed Indian exporters they should wind up their deals with the Islamic Republic by August 6.
Earlier in May, Germany’s second largest lender DZ Bank said it would halt financial transactions with Iran in July.
If there is an exodus by the very limited number of foreign banks that were willing to process transactions with Iran even before the Trump nuclear deal exit and sanctions announcement, it will come as a big blow to the country, particularly where trade finance is concerned.
Separately, more bad news for Iran emerged on May 29 when Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer, said it would not presently go ahead with plans to develop projects in Iran due to the threat of US sanctions.
Lukoil has been in talks with Iran over developing the Abe Timur and Mansuri oil fields.
May 29 also saw Czech daily Lidove noviny report that Czech Republic Industry Minister Tomas Huner had postponed indefinitely a planned June trade mission to Iran after the foreign ministry failed to support it. The foreign ministry reportedly cited the issue of possible US sanctions to explain its stance. The newspaper said no bank in the Czech Republic is willing to finance exports to Iran under current conditions.
On May 28, Dutch-based Booking.com was reported to be halting its operations in Iran due to the impending US sanctions. The move was disclosed by the Hoteliers Association of Iran.
The US firm was one of the tech megaliths to enter the Iranian market and sign deals with local hotels. The company was represented by its Middle East subsidiary at the 2017 Iran Tourism Fair in Tehran and as of January 2018 said it would accept local payments in rials.
Hoteliers Association of Iran director Jamshid Hamzezadeh said that given the relatively low number of Iran hotel bookings carried out on Booking.com, the company’s withdrawal will not have a considerable impact on the country’s tourism industry or on the number of foreign tourists visiting Iran.
As things stand, no foreign company will be able work with Iranian hotels, leaving only a handful of local operators who have foreign subsidiaries to address the required work.
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