France's Total to quit Iran gas project if no sanctions waiver


French oil major Total has halted plans to help develop Iran's giant South Pars gas field as it seeks to clarify whether the investment can avoid falling foul of returning U.S. sanctions on Tehran, the oil company said Wednesday.

Total "will have to unwind all related operations before 4 November 2018", the company said, referring to a deadline set by the US Treasury Department for companies to wind down their operations before sanctions go into effect - "unless Total is granted a specific project waiver by the US authorities with the support of the French and European authorities".

The group mentioned it has $10 billion of capital employed in its United States belongings, and USA banks are concerned in 90 % of its financing operations, making Complete extremely weak if focused by any U.S. actions.

The project waiver should include protection of the Company from any secondary sanction as per US legislation, it added.

Determined to keep the accord alive, European leaders need to find a way to assure companies that their investments are beyond Washington's extra-territorial reach.

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Total's announcement comes after German insurer Allianz and Danish oil product tanker operator Maersk Tankers said they were winding down their businesses in Iran.

Last week, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Iran has said it may start enriching uranium again if it can no longer see any economic benefit to the deal.

Total says that it has spent about 40 million euros developing the project to this point. The company has a few options if they leave.

These renewed sanctions imposed by President Trump have left some major European companies in a quandary as to what to do with their business operations.

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Total was the furthest advanced of its European oil major peers in a cautious feeling out of upstream opportunities in Iran since the easing of global sanctions at the start of 2016. Total does about 30 percent of its business through the USA banking system. "With that in mind it's a logical decision".

The company also confirmed its 5%/year average production growth target between 2016 and 2022, noting "various growth opportunities which have been captured by Total in recent months."Total also said its actual investment to date with respect to the south Pars contract is less than Eur40 million".

Industry sources told Reuters this week that China's CNPC, which holds a 30 percent stake in the South Pars project, was ready to take over Total's majority stake in the project if it pulled out.

The French state-backed oil group said that without an exemption from the U.S. it would halt work at the world's largest gas field and wind down all its activities by November 4.

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