As Western nations ratchet up sanctions against Iran in an effort to slow or stop its nuclear program, Reuters takes a look at how hard it will be for some oil companies — notably BP — to disentangle themselves from Tehran's business interests.
The case study is the Naftiran Intertrade Co., or NICO, an oil-trading firm owned by the Iranian government, which is engaged in major oil development projects with BP, Shell and Norway's Statoil.
NICO has been under U.S. financial sanctions since 2008, deemed an entity "owned or controlled by the Government of Iran." However, it remains an important source of foreign exchange for the National Iranian Oil Co., Reuters reports:
To get around the sanctions, NICO uses offshore financial havens and a web of asset and industrial holdings in the West. While it was based in Jersey, the firm operated through a "service company" based in Switzerland. But even there, in a country that has not yet signed up to the trade sanctions against Iran, the company's future could be in doubt.