TEHRAN, (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on Iranian oil officials to speed up privatisations of petrochemical companies and to show financial transparency, a business daily reported on Tuesday.
The Poul newspaper quoted Seifollah Jashnsaz, head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), as also saying that talks with Shell, Repsol and Total were continuing on their participation in major energy projects.
Jashnsaz, who said Iran’s oil output capacity now exceeded 4.3 million barrels per day and also predicted a higher oil price in coming months, said Ahmadinejad had held a meeting with senior officials, without specifying when.
“The president called for transparency in NIOC’s financial dealings (with other entities within the country’s oil industry),” Jashnsaz said, adding the president had also urged faster privatisation of petrochemical units.
Iran’s oil-dependent economy is dominated by the state but the government has been seeking to speed up sell-offs, including of firms in the downstream oil and gas sector.
With especially Western investors wary of Iran because of its nuclear row with the West, analysts say firms to be sold off may simply end up being transferred within a vast public sector.
Last month, Jashnsaz said Iran had given Royal Dutch Shell and Repsol until May 20 to clarify their involvement in a major natural gas project in the Gulf.
“These companies have still time to take part in South Pars projects and that is why negotiations continue,” Poul quoted him as saying.
European energy firms have delayed or scrapped investment plans in Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, which is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions over its disputed nuclear work.
The Persian LNG project concerns development of production and exports of liquefied natural gas from a part of the South Pars field in the Gulf. Repsol, Shell and NIOC signed an initial deal in 2002 to develop Phase 13 of South Pars.
Last year, Royal Dutch Shell delayed decisions on multi-billion dollar investments in Iranian LNG plans due to political tension. Repsol has large investments in Iran.
Iran has the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia but U.S.-led sanctions have hindered development of major exports, analysts say.
The administration of former President George W. Bush pressured countries or companies that wanted to secure energy deals in Tehran to keep out. But ties could start to thaw as new U.S. President Barack Obama has offered direct talks with Iran.