Apple Inc. is in preliminary contact with Iranian distributors about a possible entry into the country should Western sanctions ease sufficiently, people familiar with the matter said.
The report notes that financial and banking sanctions as well as political tension has thus far prevented companies like Apple from conducting business in Iran, but points to a policy change in May that lifted the ban on sales of “consumer communications technologies” in the country. The report goes on the claim that “senior Apple executives” have already met with “potential Iranian distributors” at Apple’s regional headquarters in London.
In the conversations, the Cupertino, Calif., company explored the possibility of having Iranian partners sell Apple products at so-called premium resellers, three of the people said. Instead of company-operated Apple stores, such outlets would be midsize franchisees that sell Apple products only, a model the company has used in Europe and Asia, the people said.
In addition to meeting with potential distributors from the region, the WSJ reports that Apple has been in talks with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Frozen Assets Control to the possibility of conducting business in Iran.
Apple has consulted the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Frozen Assets Control to assess under what conditions it could start operations in Iran or how it could pursue a formal relationship with Iran-based customers, according to two people familiar with the matter. Such contacts have involved discussions over how to seek U.S.-government clearance to repair products purchased in Iran or send spare parts.
The report adds that despite existing sanctions, communication between executives of United States-based companies and Iran-based companies is not barred, although such talks are unpopular due to political tension.
Apple’s potential market for exporting the iPhone to Iran is already visible, the WSJ notes, as an existing black market and even some upscale retailers currently own iPhone and iPad distribution in the country. The Wall Street Journal also points out the potential 77 million customers in Iran with 42% of the population under 25 with a large middle class.