| VIENNA, July 23
VIENNA, July 23 Western firms are itching to
return to Iran if sanctions are lifted, but to truly fulfil its
potential Tehran should do more to make its business practices
efficient and its environment welcoming, executives said at a
At the conference in Vienna, Iranian officials touted their
country - with a population of just under 80 million and annual
output of some $400 billion - as a potential bonanza for
investors in oil and gas, mining, engineering and cars.
"Leave doubting to some quarters in Washington and Tehran.
Not in Vienna," said deputy oil minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia
referring to domestic opponents to an historic July 14 deal,
which promises to lift international economic sanctions in
return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme.
But some of those attending said achieving Iran's economic
potential would require more than just an end to U.S. and EU
sanctions that have sharply curbed trade since 2012.
"Sometimes we wait really long for our money, maybe you can
change that?" Alexander Speckle, CEO of ILF Consulting Engineers
Austria, a company that provides engineering expertise to
industrial clients, asked during a panel discussion with Iranian
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, a
representative of Austrian food and chemical company Kasel
listed some of the hindrances to trade with Iran.
"Payments need to be sorted out. Infrastructure and
transportation need to be organised," he told Reuters. Goods
that arrive at customs for inspections can take too long to
reach customers, he said.
"They take samples, but then there are not enough labs that
can analyse the samples... goods may sit in the harbour for a
month at 80 degrees Celsius. The customs office needs to be
The conference drew companies including German carmakers
Daimler and Volkswagen-owned Skoda,
industrial gases and engineering group Linde and
Tehran-based venture capital fund Sarava Pars, an investor in
online retailer Digikala.
At least one U.S. state department official attended, and
Austrian oil and gas firm OMV's new CEO Rainer Seele
walked into a conference room with Iranian officials. He
declined to comment when asked what would be discussed.
Iran's deputy minister for mines and the metals industries,
Jafar Sargheini, told Reuters that the biggest hurdle to trade
was still the effect of sanctions on Iran's banks: "It's a bank
problem. Once that is removed, everything will be easier."
Many at the conference said it would be key for Iran to be
re-admitted to the SWIFT global payments system, from which it
was expelled in 2012. But there are also issues of trust,
political risks, logistical hurdles and simple western comforts.
Iran will be a new destination for many Western executives,
at a time of tumult in the Middle East. Televised images of
Iranian demonstrators chanting "Death to America" can put off
Iran would have to do a better job of promoting itself as a
place international business travellers can easily visit, said
Thomas Puehringer, partner at Austria-based Sigmament
Consulting, who has been travelling to Iran at least once a year
for four years.
He said one of the first questions his clients ask him about
Iran is how safe it is: "Security - not just of money but also
of the people that they send there."
(Editing by Peter Graff)