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Middle East: Iran’s markets come in from the cold

The country’s financial system is still not easy to access; money has trickled rather than flooded into its stock exchange since January’s deal with the US to lift sanctions. Nevertheless, as the country emerges from years of isolation, important changes are taking place that could herald a new era for Iran’s capital markets.

By Dominic Dudley

Iran cold Azadi square-R-600

Attracting investors to the Iranian capital markets has long been a challenge. International investors have been scared off by sanctions and the reputational risk of doing business in Iran; even their domestic counterparts have found it more profitable to keep their money in banks than in the more volatile stock market. Yet the outlook is changing for both groups. Could the Tehran Stock Exchange be on the cusp of a breakthrough?

The appeal for many investors of the TSE and the junior Farabourse market is largely tied to the difference between bank deposit rates and the returns they can expect from investments in listed companies. That gap has been narrowing, most recently in June when the Central Bank of Iran cut the one-year deposit rate from 18% to 15%, still an astronomical level for most markets. 

Turquoise Partners, a Tehran-based investment firm, noted hopefully in a recent market review issued “with dividend yields on the market at 12%, not far below deposit rates of 15%, things are edging ever closer to a tipping point where the stock market becomes the most attractive asset class.”

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