International Herald Tribune article
Here's the lowdown. Iran needs money. They are starting to run up humongous debts given the price break the government gives to its citizens on gas (somewhere in the neighborhood of $0.11/gallon). They have already started cutting back on government consumption of gas, but they need more FDI in order to maintain the price breaks until the next round of important elections end in about 2 years. Bank Saderat, the largest Iranian bank, is the first to go on the market (there are 3 others that will hit the market in FY2008). It turned a nifty profit last year with an ROI of 20%. Investors see some Iranian service sectors, especially finance, as a great opportunity to reach up to 70 million people.
Herein lies the problem, though: all four banks are blacklisted by the US for alleged support of terrorist organizations (I do not know enough about what kind of support or how much to give any answers). That means that any financial institution that acquires Saderat or any of the other three banks would then face being blacklisted by the US. HSBC and CreditSuisse were rumored to be interested, but they have both denied such. CreditSuisse dropped all banking ties to Iran in 2005.
It will be interesting to see how this proceeds. The money crunch is starting to hit the government, which may cause them to open up more. Already they have invited the IAEA in to look and critique their programs (although the US is still skeptical). Expect some more privatization and concessions from Iran in order to garner more funds for the government.