Network International, the largest payments processor in the Middle East and Africa, could begin working with some of Iran's largest banks this year, the company's chief executive told Reuters on Sunday.
The company is in talks with the banks about how it could begin processing debit, credit and other payment transactions without breaching the remaining economic sanctions against Iran, CEO Bhairav Trivedi said.
He declined to name the Iranian banks, beyond saying that they are among the country's largest public and private lenders.
"We believe there are a lot of opportunities in Iran to expand our market, but we are not leaping into anything blindly," Trivedi said. "If we can cross our Ts and dot our Is from a regulatory standpoint, then I would like to say yes, we can initiate this year."
For several years, Iran was largely frozen out of the global banking system by economic sanctions over its disputed nuclear plans. In January this year world powers led by the United States and the European Union lifted most sanctions in return for curbs on the nuclear programme.
But foreign banks and payments companies have remained wary of re-establishing ties with Iran because some U.S. sanctions remain and U.S. banks are still prohibited from doing business with Iran directly or indirectly.
That has made many foreign institutions fear they could still be targeted by U.S. officials or face legal problems in the United States if they resume business in Iran.
"There's still some doubt about how the sanctions and US dollar clearing will work in practice," Trivedi said. "We are evaluating the proposals to create a structure that works."
Some Iranian banks were clients of Network International before sanctions were tightened in 2011.
Network International is 51 percent owned by Dubai's largest bank Emirates NBD, with the remainder held by private equity firms Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic.
In 2014 Network International processed more than 85 billion dirhams ($23.1 billion) of transactions involving banks in the Middle East and North Africa. The figure is set to swell this year after its acquisition of rival Emerging Markets Payments.For all the latest banking and finance news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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