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Iran reactivates domestic crude bourse to get around US sanctions

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Platts Global Alert - Oil

Iran reactivates domestic crude bourse to get around US sanctions

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Private sector will be able to trade oil

Analysts doubt it will boost exports much

Last bourse sale, 2,920 barrels, in 2014

Tehran — With many of its buyers walking away, Iran is gearing up to offer 1 million barrels of oil on its dormant domestic exchange -- a venue it last used four years ago with limited success to get around US sanctions that are again threatening its exports.

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National Iranian Oil Co. said in a statement Wednesday it aims to launch the sale before the current Iranian month ends October 22. Full details, including the mechanism of sale, base price, delivery and payment terms will be announced in the next Iranian week starting Saturday.

The move is aimed at diversifying Iran's oil sales and bringing the domestic private sector into the trade, in line with "resistance economy" policies, NIOC said.

Selling through the bourse would enable private parties to then resell the oil to international traders. NIOC usually sells its crude directly to refineries, but many have already begun to shy away from further purchases ahead of the US sanctions, which will be implemented November 5.

Sara Vakhshouri, who heads up the consultancy SVB Energy International and follows Iran closely, said she doubted that using the bourse would be very successful, as any international buyers would still likely be subject to US sanctions for dealing with Iranian entities.

"This is not going to increase Iran's exports significantly, due to surveillance and monitoring technologies which could track Iran's oil exports," she said.

Iran's last use of the bourse was in early April 2014, when 2,920 barrels was sold, according to oil ministry news service Shana. A second offer a day later failed to find a buyer, however.

But any barrels sold through the bourse could allow smugglers to take the oil out of Iran and launder it into the global market, said Iman Nasseri, Middle East managing director for consultancy FGE Energy.

"Since the Iranian government or NIOC cannot get directly involved in negotiations with smugglers, this will allow a private middle-man ... to go and find buyers and arrange for logistics that could possibly be invisible to the monitoring systems," Nasseri said.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Iran will be careful to ensure that buyers using the bourse pay for the crude up front, to avoid what happened with local businessman Babak Zanjani, who was sentenced to death in 2016 for failing to repay some $2.7 billion to the government for crude he was given to sell. Zanjani remains in prison.

In its statement, NIOC said the 1 million barrels on offer would be eligible to be sold on to any destination, except for Israel. It will set the base price for the crude using the prices it has obtained for its international trades.

Delivery will be in 5,000 mt cargoes at least, equivalent to around 35,000 standard barrels, and buyers are obligated to pay 80% in foreign currency and 20% in the Iranian rial.

The rial settlement based on an official rate will be in cash and before delivery of the cargo, and settlement of the non-rial portion will be on a credit basis, NIOC said.

The latter should be carried out after loading within a certain period approved by NIOC, according to the statement. -- Aresu Eqbali, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Herman Wang, herman.wang@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com