* Destination clause for crude a sticking point
* Trade so far largely limited to oil products
* Chinese teapots slow to soak up Trafigura's Iranian crude
* For other news from the Reuters Global Commodities Summit,
By Julia Payne and Ahmad Ghaddar
LONDON, Oct 13 Nine months after sanctions on
Iran were lifted, some of the world's biggest traders have yet
to strike major oil deals with the OPEC member, stymied by
Tehran's tough stance on marketing its crude and restrictions on
Top executives from Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura and Gunvor
told the Reuters Commodities Summit this week that while they
are keen for a slice of the business, hurdles remain.
"It's still very difficult," Ian Taylor, chief executive of
commodity trading house Vitol, said.
He cited the lack of a usable dollar system to conduct
transactions with the country, making transfers of the U.S.
currency troublesome and hindering trading.
Taylor said that while Vitol had started to do some business
with Iran, the competition was strong. "Everybody is looking at
it as well."
Most Western sanctions against Iran were lifted on Jan. 17,
but remaining U.S. restrictions stipulate that only non-U.S.
banks can do dollar trades with Iran provided these do not pass
via financial institutions in the United States.
Iran has already signed a raft of deals with international
firms, some of which are dollar-based. But to date big banks
have steered away from doing business involving the country, out
of worries over inadvertently running afoul of U.S. authorities.
Concerns about the dollar were echoed by Gunvor Group Chief
Executive Torbjorn Tornqvist and Trafigura Chief Financial
Officer Christophe Salmon.
Limits on where crude can be sold remains a sticking point
as it reduces a trader's ability to maximise profit margins,
particularly in an oversupplied market.
"We shouldn't also forget that the Iranians ... when it
comes to crude oil, are extremely skilful in their marketing,"
"They need to know where it (crude) goes and to whom. And we
see very little change: 'this is what we did before sanctions
and this is what we'll continue to do after the sanctions'."
Iran, like Saudi Arabia, sets different monthly prices for
each region and has traditionally dealt only with majors or pure
refiners where supplying their own refineries remains the core
Trade houses have been largely confined to Iran's refined
products market although Trafigura loaded a large cargo with
Iranian crude in late June.
"Iran is a very promising country for many companies
including ourselves. But so far what we have done since the
sanctions were lifted, it's really small," Salmon said.
Trafigura loaded the Olympic Target tanker with 2 million
barrels of Iranian Heavy crude in a bid to capture market share
among China's independent refiners.
But the so-called teapot refineries were slow to buy the oil
once it arrived in China. After arriving in the area around
mid-July, it took the tanker a month and a half to start
offloading, Reuters ship tracking data showed.
Global head of oil at Glencore, Alex Beard, said his firm
had already had substantial dialogue with Iran, including
"conversations with NIOC about prefinance and continue to talk
to find the right terms and conditions for both sides".
But so far Glencore has only bought Iranian oil products
from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and private sector
While Iran has publicly stated that it wants to reinstate a
system whereby it swapped oil from the Caspian Sea region for
crude loading in the Mid-East Gulf, Vitol remains lukewarm. [here
"It's an incredibly difficult trade to make if you think
about it and there aren't huge volumes available in the Caspian
anyway," Taylor said. "I would be a little bit sceptical that
the swap will start any day soon even though technically it
(Editing by Susan Thomas; Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter