Italian group Pessina Costruzioni has signed an initial agreement to build five hospitals in Iran as companies scramble to steal a lead on rivals amid renewed trade heating up.
Guido Stefanelli, the CEO of the Milan-based company, signed an MoU with Iran's Ministry of Health in Tehran on Tuesday where three of the 1,000-bed hospitals will be built.
Two 500-bed units will be constructed in Iran’s northern city of Rasht and Neyshabur in the country's northeast, the Italian news agency AGI reported.
Pessina Costruzioni, Italy's leader in the construction and management of hospitals, will be one of the first foreign firms to return to Iran after the lifting of sanctions and reopening of financial exchanges.
Italy was one of Iran’s leading economic and trade partners before sanctions when annual exchanges amounted to 7 billion euros compared with $1.6 billion euros now.
Italian Deputy Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda led a large trade delegation to Tehran in November, representing 178 companies, 20 business associations and 12 banking groups.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is about to visit Italy and France from January 25 to 27 after the trip originally scheduled for mid-November was postponed due to the Paris attacks.
South Korea’s Eximbank has already signed an MoU with an Iranian entity to build 10 hospitals and pharmaceutical centers in the country.
Italy's maritime classification society RINA, meanwhile, said it had signed an agreement to provide services to Iranian shipping firms.
Ships need verification from classification companies to call at international ports. It is also key to securing insurance and indemnity cover for ships and reconnecting to the international banking system.
General manager of RINA's marine division Paolo Moretti told Reuters the Genoa-based group expected to start verifying safety and environmental standards for Iranian ships including oil tankers in a matter of weeks.
RINA signed an agreement this week with Iran's Asia Classification Society and is also looking to provide classification cover for Iran's top tanker operator NITC as well as its leading container and dry cargo shipping group IRISL.
Iran seeks to re-engage with the foreign shipping sector after sanctions were lifted.
"RINA Iran will focus not only on the marine side, but on oil and gas, energy, power generation, infrastructure and business assurance," he said.
The company expects to have its Iranian operation up and running by the end of the month.
RINA is making inroads into the Iranian market for the first time but it is building relationships with Iranian shipping companies "pretty quickly", Moretti said.
"RINA was not one of the companies who left the country. We are a new beginner," he added.
Maritime classification societies left Iran after sanctions were imposed in 2012. With the sanctions officially lifted on Saturday, those companies are jockeying for position for a return to the country of enormous opportunities.
Britain's Lloyd's Register said on Monday it was working on resuming services, while Norwegian-headquartered DNV GL said it was considering "re-entering the Iranian market".
France's Bureau Veritas said it planned to give Iranian ship owners "full support to assist their re-entry into global service".
Zurich Insurance said it would look into insurance cover for corporate customers doing business with Iran.