January 31, 2010 / 4:49 PM / 10 years ago

ABB, other Swiss firms halting Iran business

* ABB confirms has stopped taking new Iranian orders

* ABB says Iran business was minimal

* Rieter spokesman also says no new business

* Paper says Holcim not directly active, Sulzer scaling down

ZURICH, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Swiss engineering group ABB AG ABBN.VX has stopped taking new orders in Iran with a viewto ending operations there, a spokesman said on Sunday, confirming a newspaper report.

“It’s been some time since we’ve taken any new orders,” ABB spokesman Wolfram Eberhard said, adding the company had stopped doing so more than 12 months ago. “We’re finishing up old contracts.”

He said ABB now employed some 30 people in Iran, down from 100, and that many of its contracts had been for infrastructure projects and had run into financing difficulties. He said he had no exact date for when all business would be finished.

Iran and the United States have no diplomatic relations, and Washington has fined companies for doing business with Iran. Last year banks Credit Suisse CSGN.VX and Lloyds TSB (LLOY.L) were each fined several hundred million dollars. [ID:nLDE5BF075] [ID:nN09312715]

Western countries are concerned the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear technology for a bomb but Tehran says the work is aimed only at generating electricity. It has rebuffed international pressure to halt nuclear fuel enrichment or send its enriched uranium stockpile abroad for refinement.

Auto parts and textiles company Rieter (RIEN.S) said it too was not undertaking new contracts.

“We’re delivering spare parts ...but no new projects,” spokesman Peter Graedel said. “It’s business that’s always been at a low level. Markets that are important to us are Asia - India and China.”

The Swiss newspaper Sonntag reported that engineering group Sulzer (SUN.S) had since 2009 conducted much less business there than in previous years, citing a company spokeswoman. Sulzer was not immediately available for comment.

The paper also said cement-maker Holcim HOLN.VX was wary of sending employees there and had cut its stake in a local company.

“We’re not ourselves active in Iran, only as financial investors,” the paper quoted spokesman Peter Gysel as saying.

Holcim was also not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by David Cowell

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