Iranian bank opens its first branch in Italy

Saman Bank, under U.S. sanctions pressure, establishes a footprint in the European economy.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 24, 2017 at 6:47 AM
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May 24 (UPI) -- An Iranian bank sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department has opened its first branch in Italy, Iranian state media reported Wednesday.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Saman Bank has opened a branch in Rome following meetings between officials with the Central Bank of Iran and Italian delegates last month.

"Saman Bank opened its first agency in Rome in order to provide financing, investment, banking, and legal consulting services and also to create conditions for investment, and to introduce investment opportunities to the European, especially Italian, investors," the report read.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said last month that foreign companies will invest in the nation's energy sector to the fullest extent of the law. Few outside companies are working directly with Iran, though the minister said he doesn't expect investments to wane.

Governors from the Central Bank of Iran met this month with representatives from the International Monetary Fund to discuss lingering capital issues. Though trade opportunities are opening for the Islamic republic because of easing sanctions pressures, some banking channels remain closed. At the time, representatives from the Central Bank of Italy said the country was "well prepared" to deal with Iran.

Saman Bank remains under sanctions pressure from the U.S. Treasury Department which could complicate transactions.

The branch opening in Rome follows the re-election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned in part on the opening of Iranian doors to the West. His country secured relief from some sanctions early last year under the terms of a multilateral deal that saw Iran step back from its controversial nuclear research program.

Under Rouhani, about 1 million barrels per day of Iranian oil is back on the market because of sanctions relief.

Iran is the No. 3 producer among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Members of OPEC are coordinating on an agreement to curb production in an effort to balance the market, but Iran is allowed room for growth as it looks to regain a market share lost to sanctions.

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