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.The United States has imposed sanctions that prevent companies from doing business with Iran, but in May, sanctions that prevented the sales of consumer communications equipment and software such as smartphones and laptops were lifted. The sanctions were removed in an effort to give Iranians a way to communicate on social media and through other channels to overcome communications restrictions enacted by Iranian authorities. This change potentially opens the door for sales of the iPhone and other Apple products in the country.
The contacts have involved over a dozen Apple employees, including technical and marketing professionals, the people said.
Apple is said to have consulted the U.S. Treasury's Office of Frozen Assets Control to ascertain how it could start operations in Iran and establish a relationship with Iran-based customers.
As noted by The Wall Street Journal, Iran may be seen as an attractive market to Apple as the country has a population of 77 million with 42 percent of people under the age of 25, along with a large middle class. There are obstacles that could make it difficult for Apple to sell iPhones in the country, however, including banking restrictions, locating mobile-service providers, and more.
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