(2011) – When the United Nations Security Council blacklisted Iran’s Sepanir Oil & Gas Engineering Co. last year, the company’s main German intermediary terminated their trading relationship, the German firm says—an apparent victory for international sanctions.
But within months, another intermediary had seized on the business opportunity.
Hansa Group AG of Duisburg, Germany, ramped up its trade with Iran’s oil and gas sector, the company said, delivering industrial equipment from German manufacturers to a new Iranian company that didn’t appear on the U.N. blacklist. This week, 18 months after the U.N. sanctions were imposed, Hansa Group said Germany’s export-oversight agency had asked it to halt deliveries to the Iranian firm, as the European Union discusses updates to its Iranian blacklist. A spokesman from the German agency, known as BaFa, declined to comment.
As the U.S. and EU seek stronger measures to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, the rise and fall of Hansa’s supply business shows how the sanctions regime is often forced to play catch-up to businesses in Iran and abroad that quickly adapt…
Hansa took over some contracts that had been drafted between Salzgitter and Sepanir to supply the Iranians with fire-protection equipment and other technical energy-industry needs—fulfilling the orders for Petrokish instead, commercial records show. In their new incarnation, some of these contracts even inherited the same procurement numbers, says Thomas Pfisterer, the Hansa management board member responsible for marketing.
Mr. Pfisterer said in an interview in October that Hansa had bartered with Petrokish on its own behalf, while separately helping German firms conclude sales in Iran. ‘We’ve taken market share’ from competitors, he said. From June 2010 through November 2011, according to sales records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Petrokish ordered through Hansa more than €150 million ($195 million) in technology. Mr. Pfisterer said Hansa’s niche in Iran trade was a ‘gray area of business,’ but was legal. The exports to Iran were approved by BaFa, according to Hansa and the suppliers.
On Tuesday, BaFa asked Hansa to halt all deliveries to Petrokish. The request was made in connection with deliberations at an EU meeting on Dec. 1 that informally named new people and entities for sanction, Hansa told its suppliers in a letter seen by the Journal. A spokeswoman for Hansa Group said her firm is caught in a ‘terrible situation.’ Its suppliers require Hansa Group to accept delivery and pay for goods it ordered on behalf of Petrokish, but the goods can’t be delivered to the Iranian company. Hansa Group is bargaining ‘vacate its contracts with the least economic damage’ she said.
Petrokish isn’t entirely dependent on Hansa for European trade. During a March meeting arranged by Hansa at the German office of a fire-protection equipment seller, a Petrokish representative recorded a memo on stationery bearing the logos of the Revolutionary Guard and the already-sanctioned Sepanir, according to a review of the document. BAFA spotted the logos, and asked Minimax to clarify the role of Sepanir in its sales to Iran, said Thorsten Giesek, a Minimax project manager who attended the Hansa-Petrokish meeting.
Such deals are eased by the ability of companies in Germany to get underwriting. For example, this year Samson AG, which makes special valves used in gas fields, has obtained partial guarantees by at least three German banks for about €29 million in shipments via Hansa: Deutsche Bank AG and state-owned German banks Commerzbank AG and Landesbank Baden Würtemberg AG, or LBBW… Sonja Stegemann, who handles order processing at Hansa, said Hansa never tried to hide its business relationships with Iran, and the bank guarantees were arranged by Hansa’s clients.
Source » wsj