A final deal that removes international sanctions against Iran may still be months away, but foreign investors aren’t waiting to pile into the market.
London-based money managers including Charlemagne Capital Ltd. and First Frontier Capital Ltd. are putting together sanctions-compliant funds to allow investors to buy Iranian equities ahead of the buzz that they expect a final agreement would generate.
While there’s the possibility, of course, that the preliminary pact Iran carved out with global powers doesn’t lead to a full-fledged deal, the money managers are in essence saying they’d rather run the risk of arriving too early than miss a rally in Tehran’s $110 billion equity market. Relief from economic sanctions may triple growth by removing barriers to the nation’s oil exports and ending the isolation of its banks from the global financial system, according to Dominic Bokor-Ingram, a portfolio adviser at Charlemagne.
“We want to make sure our portfolio is exposed to companies that take advantage of that economic growth,” Bokor- Ingram said by phone on Monday. “We hope to have a product in the next few weeks.”
Initial signs of a rally have already begun to emerge.
The benchmark index of Tehran-listed stocks has gained 3.6 percent this month as negotiators agreed to seek a final deal by June 30. The rebound comes after a 17 percent slump in the 12 months through March as the talks stalled repeatedly, undermining confidence that President Hassan Rouhani could end decade-long sanctions. Even amid the standoff, the gauge jumped 300 percent in dollar terms in the five years through 2013.
Charlemagne projects that Iran’s economy could grow between 6 and 8 percent without the burden of sanctions, compared with estimates of between 1 and 3 percent in 2014. The company is betting that faster growth will augment businesses serving domestic demand.
Templeton Emerging Markets Group Chairman Mark Mobius said in an interview on Bloomberg TV this month the “thriving” stock market in Tehran offers many opportunities, including consumer stocks. Total SA, Europe’s biggest refiner, said it’s willing to resume operations in Iran if diplomacy succeeds.
Obstacles remain on the path toward ending sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program. U.S. and Iranian officials have bickered over the framework for further discussions, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signaled the possibility of extending the June deadline. Skeptics among U.S. lawmakers insist that Congress must review any final plan.