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Total CEO eyes return to post-sanctions Iran if terms attractive

Total CEO Christophe de Margerie said Thursday the company would be interested in investing in a post-sanctions Iran, but only if the terms of upstream participation were attractive enough.

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De Margerie, speaking at a briefing in London, also stressed that Total would respect international law with regard to Iran and would not sign any deals with Tehran while the Islamic Republic remained under sanctions.

"We will not sign or negotiate anything until the embargo is lifted," he said.

But asked whether Total would be interested in returning to Iran if and when international sanctions against Tehran were lifted, de Margerie said: "If the terms are attractive, yes."


Iran is currently finalizing a new draft upstream contract model. It hopes to offer international oil companies an early glimpse of the new draft contracts in February in Tehran, months before it introduces the finalized contracts at a London roadshow now planned for June or July.

De Margerie said he had no knowledge yet of what the contract model would look like.

"They don't have it yet," he said.

He said that Iran's oil minister Bijan Zanganeh, speaking to oil company chiefs in Davos in January, said the country was working on the new model.

"He said, 'we have to work on new terms, we know the former terms were not attractive enough. But we're not yet ready'. Those were his words, not mine," de Margerie said.

FRANCE-IRAN RELATIONS

Total was part of a delegation of French companies that visited Tehran earlier this month that drew criticism from a US government official.

Wendy Sherman, under secretary for political affairs at the US State Department, said that companies visiting Iran were sending the wrong message while talks over a comprehensive deal on Iran's nuclear program were ongoing.

"I don't think it was anything linked with a warning to French companies," de Margerie said Thursday.

"Everyone knows -- French companies respect the law," he said.

De Margerie also said the US had internal issues over its sanctions regime against Iran.

"I frankly think that it is a domestic problem between the president and his opponents, and he wants to mention that he will be strict on making sure the embargo is respected," he said.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, accompanied by Zanganeh, issued an invitation to international oil companies in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in late January to invest in Iran.

In early December, Zanganeh said he hoped the biggest oil majors from Europe and the US would become investors in Iran's upstream sector once sanctions were lifted.

He named Total, Shell, Statoil, BP, Eni, Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips as being among the companies he would like to see working in Iran.

The landmark agreement giving Iran some sanctions relief in return for nuclear concessions was reached on November 24 and came into force on January 20 for six months, during which time the two sides will try to reach a comprehensive agreement.

The interim deal keeps core oil sanctions in place, including the ban on investment.

A comprehensive deal will be needed if Western companies are to work in Iran's investment-hungry oil and gas fields.

--Stuart Elliott, stuart.elliott@platts.com
--Edited by Maurice Geller, maurice.geller@platts.com