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MarketWatch: Shell reiterates Iran sanctions risk as pressure intensify in U.S.

By Benoit Faucon
Last Update: 6:35 AM ET Mar 14, 2007

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Royal Dutch Shell PLC has reiterated a warning about the risks it faces from possible sanctions being imposed on Iran, as pressure intensifies in the U.S. against foreign companies investing in the Islamic republic.

The U.S. State Department last week warned that international companies investing in Iran face an increasing business risk given heightened chances for harsher sanctions amid efforts to halt Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Shell reiterated the warning, first made in March 2005, in its annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major said sanctions could result in it being barred from financing by U.S. institutions, because its investments in Iran exceed the allowed $20 million level.

Shell and Spain’s Repsol YPF in January signed a preliminary $10 billion agreement with the Iranian government to develop two phases of the huge South Pars natural gas field. Many other companies are mulling Iranian offers of onshore and offshore blocks for development of hydrocarbons.

The company said the sanctions includes “denial of financings by the U.S. export-import bank, denial of certain export licenses, denial of certain government contracts and limits of loans or credits from U.S. financial institutions.”

However, it added the U.S. legislation is in conflict with European law, which specifies no limit should be put on investment in Iran.

Shell also reminded that U.S. sanctions applied to Syria and Sudan. “It is possible that the group or persons employed by the group could be found to be subject to sanctions or other penalties under this legislation in connection with their activities in these countries,” Shell said in the filing.

Separately, Shell said that a New Jersey district court will hold hearings in June to decide whether U.S. laws apply to the claims of non-U.S. shareholders who purchased Shell’s securities on foreign markets.

In January 2006, Dutch pension funds and institutional shareholders from Germany and Luxembourg filed actions in the U.S. over the restatement of its hydrocarbons reserves. Shell said they have been consolidated with a class action by Pennsylvania State retirement funds.

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