Greek mission to Iran returns with far less than expected

The aspirations of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) to resume crude oil orders from Iranian state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) once western-imposed sanctions against the country, valid since 2012, are lifted now appear to be far more challenging than originally thought.

A Greek delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and including ELPE managing director Grigoris Stergioulis, returned from a trip to Tehran earlier this week with serious issues to resolve if crude supply by NIOC to ELPE is to resume.

Though ELPE officials have not made any comments, it appears NIOC has toughened its terms. According to a Bloomberg report, ELPE will first need to settle an outstanding debt amount, whose level is disputed by the two sides, before the Iranian company considers resuming crude supply to the Greek refinery.

Prior to the Greek delegation’s business trip to Iran, ELPE was aiming to secure supply of four million barrels of Iranian crude per month, a level now seen as overambitious.

According to energypress sources, Greek officials fear NIOC is feeling the strain of the fallen crude price level, now down to 40 dollars a barrel, and will demand settlement of the outstanding amount owed by ELPE to the Iranian company before trade resumes, and, furthermore, also push for prepayment of future orders.

Prepayment is a commonly applied demand by suppliers feeling powerful, such as state-run companies in the Persian Gulf. On the contrary, Russian and Iraqi suppliers are willing to accept settlement of order amounts 30 days after delivery.

Although it is still too early to draw any conclusions, certain sources claim ELPE will exclude Iran from its new and revised business plan.

Besides its crude oil supply, Iran is an appealing investment prospect in the international business community, now that the international sanctions appear set to be lifted early in 2016. This week’s visit by the Greek delegation, featuring a total of 30 entrepreneurs, coincided with an Italian mission comprised of some 400 businessmen.

As for Iran’s crude supply sector, market officials believe the country has already reached agreements with many companies from the west for an amount five times over its capacity.

According to ELPE, the company’s debt owed to NIOC is estimated at between 500 million and 600 million dollars. Officials at the Iranian company consider Greek refineries owe a total of about 800 million US dollars. The Bloomberg report noted Iranian officials consider ELPE owes 755 million dollars and fellow Greek refinery Motor Oil a further 55 million dollars.

According to the Bloomberg report, Iranian company Tadbir Energy Development Group is interested in acquiring a stake in a Greek refinery, without specifying whether ELPE or Motor Oil is being targeted.

During the trip to Tehran, ELPE officials were reportedly asked whether the company is willing to sell an equity share of the corporate group. No further discussion on the matter was reported.