Iran woos local investors as US sanctions loom, currency falls

Iranians walk inside Tehran’s ancient Grand Bazaar in Tehran on July 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 July 2018

Iran woos local investors as US sanctions loom, currency falls

  • The probable return of sanctions has triggered a rapid fall of Iran’s currency
  • The new Iranian plan appears to be aimed at easing concern over the US decision

DUBAI: Iran plans to offer price and tax incentives to private investors to take over idle state projects and help boost the economy, state media reported on Saturday, as the country faces likely US sanctions and the exit of many foreign companies.
In May the United States pulled out of a multinational deal to lift sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program, and Washington has told countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face US financial measures.
The new Iranian plan, along with action against alleged financial crime, appears to be aimed at easing concern over the US decision.
The probable return of sanctions has triggered a rapid fall of Iran’s currency, protests by bazaar traders usually loyal to the Islamist rulers, and a public outcry over alleged profiteering.
The plan will offer attractive prices and flexible terms as well as tax holidays for investors who agree to take over some of the 76,000 government projects which are unfinished or idle, Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on state television.
“Over the past few months, the country’s liquidity has gone into housing, foreign exchange and gold coins, raising prices and provoking public concerns,” Jahangiri was quoted as saying by the website of the state broadcaster.
“A main issue in the meeting ... was to find solutions to push liquidity toward employment and activating manufacturing,” Jahangiri added after the meeting attended by President Hassan Rouhani, and the heads of parliament and the judiciary.

PULLING OUT
The sanctions start to come into effect in August but some European companies investing in Iran and with big US operations have already announced they will pull out of business deals with Tehran.
The Iranian rial plunged to a record low against the US dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday. The dollar was offered for as much as 97,500 rials, compared to about 85,500 a week ago, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com.
The currency has lost more than half of its value this year because of a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the effects of sanctions.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Saturday that 18 people had been arrested over alleged profiteering from foreign exchange dealings and the illegal importing of luxury cars, state television reported.
In late December, demonstrations which began over economic hardship spread to more than 80 Iranian cities and towns. At least 25 people died in the unrest, the biggest expression of public discontent in almost a decade.
Demonstrators initially vented their anger over high prices and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.


Struggling WeWork mulls bailout deals with SoftBank, JP Morgan

Updated 14 October 2019

Struggling WeWork mulls bailout deals with SoftBank, JP Morgan

TOKYO: Under-pressure start-up WeWork is considering two huge bailout plans including a cash injection that could see Japanese investment titan SoftBank take control of the firm, according to reports.
The office-sharing giant had been on course for a massive initial public offering until last month when questions began to be asked over its governance and profit outlook.
The firm’s valuation plunged from $47 billion in January to less than $20 billion in September and the listing plans have been dropped, while co-founder Adam Neumann stepped down as chief executive.
With New York-based parent company We Co. not expected to push for the IPO this year, the cash-strapped firm is looking for a financial lifeline.
The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Bloomberg News cited unnamed sources close to the talks as saying SoftBank — the US firm’s biggest shareholder — had drawn up a proposal that gives it full control of WeWork.
The move would dilute the voting power of Neumann, who remains as chairman of the company he started in 2010 and also currently maintains control a majority of voting shares.
They also reported that WeWork is looking at a deal with Wall Street giant JP Morgan to raise $5 billion in debt, with the Times saying directors of We would be meeting as soon as Monday afternoon to discuss that.
“WeWork has retained a major Wall Street financial institution to arrange financing,” the Journal reported a company spokesman as saying.
“Approximately 60 financing sources have signed confidentiality agreements and are meeting with the company’s management and its bankers over the course of this past week and this coming week.”
The New York-based startup that launched in 2010 has touted itself as revolutionizing commercial real estate by offering shared, flexible workspace arrangements, and has operations in 111 cities in 29 countries.
However, the company, which lost $1.9 billion last year, has faced skepticism over its ability to make money, especially if the global economy slows significantly.