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The no vote: protests against the Iran nuclear deal in Washington, DC


bought by international investors and private equity will facilitate that.”


Anuphill road The future of the JCPOA and US sanctions remains the elephant in theroomandMrBiden has hinted he will take a more moderate approach than his predecessor. “The mechanics and sequencing of an


American re-entry into the JCPOA remain to be determined, but it will not be harder than when the deal was originally struck, when taboos needed to be broken in Tehran and Washington,” says Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and publisher of Bourse & Bazaar, a media company that supports business diplo- macy between Europe and Iran. Rejigging the JCPOAmay not be enough.Mr


Biden will also have to reverse engineer the wide net of sanctions introduced by Mr Trump. “[Mr Biden] would still have to make the


case that revenues from the oil and gas sector are not used to fund the activities of the Revolutionary Guards,” Torbjorn Soltvedt, Middle East analyst at consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, says. In October, US Treasury secre- tary Steven Mnuchin claimed Iran’s oil sector financed “destabilising activities”.


Changein rhetoric Nevertheless, the election of Mr Biden has already encouraged some investors. “This is what we have been waiting for,”


says Maciej Wojtal, chief investment officer of Amtelon Capital, an Amsterdam-based fund


launched in 2017 to invest in Iranian listed companies. “We have a long list of potential investors


that never decided to pull the trigger not because of investment risks, but because of legal and sanctions risk. We expect that those risks will matter less and start disappearing,” he says, adding that the fund has performed strongly in euro terms despite the adverse cir- cumstances. The US sanctions regime under Mr Trump


wasmarked by aggression and a malicious legal vagueness that meant the direct or indirect risks were too high formost non-US companies. “We had no sanctions risks because we were


investing in non-sanctioned sectors and compa- nies,” says Kiyan Zandiyeh, chief investment officer at London-based frontier markets inves- tors Sturgeon Capital, which launched an Iran fund in 2016 andmoved it out of its structure in 2019. “The risk was that services providers hav- ing US businesses may not want to work with us. If the situation gets better, which is really unclear at the moment, we will actively be looking to bring the fund back under our own management.” A Persian saying goes: “You don’t put a


wooden pot on the fire twice”. Investors in Iran got burnt during the


Trump presidency and Mr Biden will have to overhaul the sanctions regime for many to give the country another shot. However, the opportunities in the oil-rich countrymay be so great that a feware already willing to overlook the risks.■


December 2020/January 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 73


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