By Sarah Townsend
KPMG, Deloitte, PWC and EY are working to support clients in Iran following lifting of sanctions this year
The world’s ‘Big Four’ accountancy and professional services firms are taking steps to establish operations in Iran following the lifting of international sanctions in January.
KPMG, Deloitte, PWC and EY are understood to have held discussions over either setting up offices in Tehran or otherwise commencing operations in the country.
It is not yet known when such movements would take place, but the auditing firms told Arabian Business they had had sufficient demand from clients looking to enter the market to justify an expansion of their services into Iran.
A KPMG spokesman said: “KPMG is looking at establishing a presence in Iran as soon as is practicable and in a manner which is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
“A team of non-US personnel are currently exploring the opportunities available so that KPMG can support clients looking to re-enter the market.”
PWC said in a statement: “PWC is monitoring developments in Iran closely and supports the goals of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We are the largest of the Big Four professional services networks around the world.
“Certain PWC member firms are assisting international clients who are considering business opportunities with Iran and evaluating potential opportunities to begin operations there.”
A Deloitte spokesman said that the firm has “no on the ground presence in Iran” at the moment, “but is able to provide clients certain professional services from teams outside Iran”.
The spokesman added: “Deloitte continuously assesses developments to set appropriate plans and strategy for the Iran market.”
And EY said in a statement: “EY is working closely with clients to support their commercial interests in Iran, consistently with applicable laws and regulations.”
The Big Four are among the first international companies to have publicly stated they are actively looking to work in Tehran following the lifting of sanctions this year.
It is believed a clutch of international law firms and at least one large global bank are also in talks to set up offices in Tehran – although experts say it could be some time yet before foreign investors rush to take advantage of the reopened market.
Although the majority of international sanctions have been removed, there remain restrictions against the direct involvement of US citizens in Iran, and the supply of US-sourced products and services to Iran-based companies.
Nicholas Coward, US-based attorney at Baker & McKenzie law firm, said: “The two words that best characterise the current situation are ‘balance’ and ‘caution’.
“Balance in terms of the government approach to the new relationship and strict enforcement in maintaining certain other sanctions, and balance from companies in terms of their cognisance of the things they can and cannot do, and how to police that internally.”
Ahmad Azizi, senior advisor to the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, said: “While there are negative foreign perceptions of [doing business in] Iran, prospective investors must remember that Iran is a large, local market and one of the most diversified economies in the Middle East.
“Last year it exported every single category of goods as defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – a rare attribute in the region.
“Those concerned over the implications of the ‘snapback’ provisions contained in the deal [that sanctions will be re-imposed should Iran fail to keep up its side of the bargain] should be reassured that the country worked hard to negotiate with the US and would not throw away its investment overnight.”