TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran is cutting red tape and easing ownership rules to encourage foreign investment in stocks and bonds, state television reported on Monday, as the major oil producer faces further U.N. sanctions over its nuclear work.
Press TV, citing a senior official, said Iran had adopted new regulations to facilitate investment in its capital market.
Restrictions on investors transferring money out of Iran were removed and the limit on a foreign investor’s stake in a company’s shares was raised to 20 percent from 10 percent.
“The government is now offering broader incentives to foreign investors with fewer regulatory strings attached,” said Ali Saleh Abadi, director of Iran’s Securities and Exchange Organization.
“They will be exempt from paying tax and will no longer be subjected to excessive regulations,” Press TV quoted him as saying in an interview posted on its website.
Analysts say Iran needs foreign capital to help it modernize and expand its all-important oil industry, but that Western firms are becoming increasingly reluctant to invest in the country due to the long-running nuclear row with the West.
Earlier in April, an official said Iran aimed to raise about $12.5 billion by privatizing more than 500 state firms during the 2010-11 year, including two refineries and two car makers.
But economic analysts say some of the companies that are put up for sale may simply end up being transferred within Iran’s vast public sector.
The United States and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the charge and says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity.
A U.S. draft for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions proposes more curbs on Iranian banking, an arms embargo, tougher measures against Iranian shipping, moves against Revolutionary Guards members and a ban on new investments in Iran’s energy sector.
Press TV said Iran, which the International Monetary Fund expects to grow 3 percent growth this year after 1.8 percent growth in 2009, was moving to “steadily eliminate any complications or constraints on foreign investors.”
“Foreign investors can now invest in the capital market, trade shares or take out their money at any time,” Saleh Abadi told Press TV.
He said Iran’s capital market was in a “better shape” than other markets in the region following the global economic downturn and that the government’s privatization drive offered investors new opportunities.
“Our investment market is yet to be integrated with the global market, and perhaps that also explains why it has to some extent remained immune to the financial crisis,” he said.