In the 36 years since the Islamic revolution swept over Iran, the country has tapped international debt markets exactly twice.
Those bonds, worth a total of just 1 billion euros, have long since disappeared from traders’ screens, having matured almost a decade ago. But now, in the aftermath of Iran’s deal earlier this month with international powers to end sanctions, investors like Hans Humes are anticipating that drought will end soon.
As Iranian officials were in Vienna hammering out terms of the nuclear accord, Humes, a New York-based hedge fund manager, traveled to Tehran to do scouting work of his own. During a 10- day trip, he liked much of what he saw––a well-educated population, low homelessness, signs of a modernized economy––and said he’d be a buyer when the nation starts selling debt to finance projects that weren’t viable under the sanctions.
“The bond market appetite for everything Iranian will be pretty high,” Humes, founder of hedge fund Greylock Capital Management, said in a telephone interview from New York.
He estimated it may take government officials a while before they’re ready, perhaps a year or so, “but they’re going to start tapping international markets.”
Before Iran can access overseas markets, the U.S. and European Union will need to lift a complex web of sanctions, which mainly include a ban on its lenders from dealing with Iran and Iranian banks’ access to the leading global financial-messaging system known as Swift.
They will remove these restrictions once the United Nations-atomic watchdog verifies that Iran has curbed its nuclear activities and fully addressed suspicions that it sought to develop nuclear weapons in the past. That verification is due by Dec. 15, though U.S. officials estimate that it will take longer than that.
With the U.S. poised to start increasing interest rates later this year, a move that would erode demand for developing-nation debt, Iran will probably want to raise money as soon as possible to lock in borrowing costs below 10 percent, said Amir Zada, a managing director at Exotix Ltd., which specializes in illiquid and distressed emerging-market debt.
A request for comment from the central bank in Tehran about Iran’s debt issuance plans wasn’t returned.