TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Azimut, a €48bn group headquartered in Milan, is to acquire 20 per cent of Mofid Entekhab, an Iranian asset manager, for an undisclosed sum.
“We were looking for an opportunity to invest in a very interesting market. Iran is a great story,” said Sergio Albarelli, chief executive of Azimut. “[There is] nothing we can do or expect, either positive or negative,” he said in reference to Trump’s comments that he would try to derail the 2015 agreement.
Azimut’s move comes before the next deadline, on October 15. However, if Trump chooses not to recertify the nuclear agreement, also known as the JCPOA, it will not fall apart immediately. Congress would have 60 days to initiate legislation to “snap back” the nuclear-related sanctions it has waived on Iran. It is not clear which way that debate might go.
Iran, the second-largest economy in the Middle East with a population of around 78m, is an attractive market to foreign investors because of its large oil, gas and mineral reserves and its need for infrastructure.
Its educated and affluent populace is also a tempting prospect for financial services groups and Tehran, keen to win foreign investment, has been wooing European asset managers, sovereign wealth funds and pension funds.
However, the 2015 deal has not thrown the door for investment completely open. For US companies relatively little has changed because many sanctions are still in place.
What the JCPOA did was repeal penalties slapped by US authorities on non-US investors doing business with the country, but large global banks with a US presence remain wary. “There is still nervousness within the financial community of dealing with Iran,” said Mr Martin-Robinson, pointing to the $15.1bn in fines incurred by financial groups including HSBC and Standard Chartered for falling foul of US regulators between 2010 and 2015.
Azimut said it and Mofid have ensured that the partnership will be compliant with economic sanctions requirements. Mofid Entekhab is part of Iran’s privately held Mofid Group, a holding company with $89m in assets. Entekhab, the asset management business, was carved out from its Mofid Securities business last year. Azimut will buy the stake through AZ International Holdings, its Luxembourg-based unit.
Azimut and Mofid also plan to establish a fund, domiciled in Luxembourg, for foreign investors to invest in Iran. “Our strategic goal is now to capitalise on our track record as the leading financial intermediary in Iran and create with Azimut a benchmark for the local asset management industry,” said Hamid Azaraksh, chairman of Mofid Securities.
He said his clients “will be able to access a new suite of financial advisory and wealth management services in line with the highest international standards”.