The expected increase in the movement of goods to Iran once sanctions get lifted will be of immense benefit to the UAE’s insurance sector.
Under the current sanctions regime, risk cover on cargo is “provided solely by the Iran Insurance Company”, said Mustafa Vazayil, Managing Director of Gargash Insurance. “Based on how much of the Iranian market will be opened up to foreign direct investment, it is possible to see some of the multinational insurers in the UAE who were operating in Iran before the Revolution returning to Iran.
“Large local and regional insurers will also look into the possibility of entering the Iranian market. Gargash Insurance will be very keen to explore this possibility.
“As everyone rushes for a slice of the pie [once sanctions are lifted], we will see competitive pricing being offered. This will get rectified only when claims start pouring in and insurers encounter challenges in managing claims in Iran.
“The recent opening of Lloyds at DIFC will further augment the inward premium from Iran into Dubai market.”
According to Massimo Falcioni, CEO for the Middle East territory at the credit insurer Coface, “All of the subterranean movement in goods shipments will be done through formal channels and that’s going to be the biggest game-changer for the trade, logistics and insurance sectors here.
“All of the parties will have guarantees in place that payments on goods bought and shipped will be honoured. And if there are to be payment issues, local parties will have adequate backup by way of being insured against any risks.”
According to Falcioni, there will be other direct ways the UAE could benefit from a softening on the Iran situation. “Those European businesses who want to have future dealings with Iran are likely to set up base in Dubai,” he said. “And when you add these to future transactions that businesses already based here will do, it will filter through the whole UAE economy.
“The benefits will not be confined to a handful of sectors.”
Iran’s retail sector could be a prized entry point for UAE business groups in geographic expansion mode. For many of them, Iran had been the missing link for a long time. If not through a direct retail presence of their own, local groups could offer franchising deals to Iranian partners.
The options for retailers vis-a-vis Iran are quite clearly endless. “The large retailers in the UAE, especially in Dubai, who have a fair knowledge of Iranian consumer behaviour and preferences will eye an entry into that market,” said Vazayil.
But the investment flow need not be in one direction alone. Real estate in Dubai could once again be a beneficiary — “But such benefits will accrue only over the medium-term,” said Sameer Lakhani, Managing Director of Global Capital Partners.