• Shell assures Iran of $2bn debt repayment
  • Iran to improve contracts to attract overseas groups
  • US companies more cautious on Iran

European oil majors BP, Shell and Total have declared their interest in returning to Iran if sanctions against Tehran’s oil and financial sectors are lifted.

Ben van Beurden, the CEO of UK-Dutch Shell, said at the Opec summit in Vienna on 3 June that he had discussed with the Iranian petroleum minister Bijan Zangeneh the repayment of a $2bn outstanding debt to Iran.

Van Beurden said he met Zangeneh to “give assurance that payments will be made as soon as they can be made” but that it would only be possible after sanctions are removed and after approval from the UK, Netherlands and US.

The debt comes from oil deliveries to Shell that the oil major was unable to pay because of sanctions against Iran’s banking system.

The CEO also “made it very clear that… the moment the sanctions regime has changed, we will look at opportunities in Iran,” Dow Jones reported Van Beurden as saying.

Iran is planning to restructure the contracts it offers to international oil companies (IOCs) to make them more attractive for long-term investment.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne, who also met with Zangeneh, expressed interest in re-entering Iran but said that contracts would not be discussed until sanctions are lifted. Total has previously worked in Iran developing the South Pars offshore gas field.

BP CEO Bob Dudley said the UK-based group would “very much” be interested in investing in Iran if sanctions are lifted but talk of deals is premature while Iran remains in its nuclear dispute with world powers.

US-based oil majors have been more cautious on the prospect of entering the Iranian market.

“If US companies are allowed to go back in and at some point in time that gets resolved, certainly we will think about it,” ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance was reported saying in Vienna by Bloomberg.

Zangeneh, in May, estimated that Iran needs $200bn worth of investment to rebuild and expand its oil sector after years of damaging sanctions and underfunding.

The petroleum minister said in Vienna that Iran could quickly ramp up oil production in the short term if sanctions were lifted.

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