GROWING CAPITAL

Iran 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Farhad Zargari, Managing Director & Chairman of Iran Foreign Investments Company (IFIC), on the role of the organization in establishing confidence within the global market.

Dr. Farhad Zargari
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Farhad Zargari is currently the Chairman and Managing Director of Iran Foreign Investment Company (IFIC). In 2015 he was appointed Advisor to the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. For several years he was Managing Director of the Tamin Pharmaceutical Investment Company (TPICO). He served as Director for studies and strategic planning in Social Security Investment Company (SSIC-SHASTA) in 2008. He has also held several senior roles in the Social Security Organization (SSO) and was SSO’s representative in the International Social Security Association (ISSA) in Geneva. Dr. Zargari completed his studies in management in Arizona.

What is the role of IFIC in establishing confidence within the global market in order to attract foreign investment?

As the main body for investing abroad on behalf of the government, IFIC has a big responsibility to strengthen the international economic relations of Iran. IFIC is now present on five continents, and we have investments in 22 countries. The first way we attract foreign investors to Iran is through foreign investments, as per our mandate and primary responsibility. When we carry out these investments abroad, we become part of the international network, creating an atmosphere of trust and indirectly inviting interested parties to come to Iran. We also have investments in private equities and stock markets around the world. We own shares in important companies such as British Petroleum, ThyssenKrupp, Siemens, Adidas, and many other big brands. Although IFIC is not allowed to invest in Iran on its own, we can also attract foreign investments by co-investing with foreign investors inside Iran through our subsidiaries. Our presence in any domestic project is a source of comfort for foreign investors to freely come to Iran.

Does the lifting of sanctions represent a turning point in your investment strategy abroad?

Our board reviewed our investment strategy—taking into consideration the post-sanction circumstances—and formulated a new plan that identified three target areas for investment, the first of which is financial institutions. Our investments will now focus more on the banking system, leasing companies, insurance and re-insurance firms, investment funds, and the like. Our second area for investment is global capital markets, as certain resources need high liquidity in order to be able to cash them for further FDIs. The third area is direct investment in high-tech industries, so we will concentrate on ICT and new sciences. In our portfolio, we have a large investment in ICT and mobile operations around the world. We are present in mobile operations in seven African countries and certain Asian countries. We have action plans in place to target these three investment areas in the coming years.

What is the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the European market?

One of IFIC's significant roles is to create a bridge between Iran and other countries with our investments, in order to pave the ground for knowledge and know-how transfer. This is one of the considerations we had in mind when we chose high-technology industries as a focus for our future investments. We feel more secure investing in European and other developed countries compared to less regulated countries. Despite the sanctions, IFIC's investments in Europe were almost intact. Our investments, capital gain, and dividends were all secure. After the lifting of sanctions we can transfer that money to new investment projects, and we are attracted to countries with good governance.

What will be your position among leading global investment companies in the coming years?

We have thus far made our investments by using the dividends and profits from our previous investments. However, currently we are in the process of creating an investment fund in Switzerland. This should give other investors enough confidence to also invest in this fund. At the same time, the fund prospectus clearly states it works with Iranian companies and finances them for trade. Trade financing is an important tool that Iranian companies are definitely in need of, which was the reason for creating this fund. It will help Iranian companies overcome the scarcity of resources they face at the moment. This fund should guarantee 6% profit annually at a time when interest rates in Europe are negative. With the lifting of sanctions, we have gained more freedom to operate more broadly and form partnerships with competent partners, which will hopefully lead to even better results in the future.