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Libya claws back sovereign assets

By Pietro Musilli
Posted on Friday, 12 October 2012 17:47

As the one-year anniversary of the fall of Tripoli approaches, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund, is still picking through the recovery of assets frozen during the revolution.

The LIA is now also investigating losses that have come to light, including $1.95bn at the hands of investments made with Goldman Sachs and Société Générale in 2007 and 2008.

A spokeswoman told The Africa Report that the issues needed further discussion by the board, while they were considering which law firm would best represent them in efforts to get compensation.

Mohsen Derregia, a former professor at Nottingham University, was appointed the LIA’s new chairman in April.

In June, he was in Milan, fighting the seizure in late March by Italian financial police of $1.39bn of Libyan assets on the grounds they belonged to Gaddafi’s family.

These include small stakes in UniCredit Bank, Fiat, Juventus Football Club and oil and gas giant Eni.

Nevertheless, Derregia told reporters that LIA assets had fallen “by less than feared” and now stood at between $50bn and $60bn.

In Africa, Libya is also trying to recover and rationalise its investments.

At the beginning of 2011, LAP Green Networks, a subsidiary of LIA, held stakes in nine telecoms operators across sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad’s Sotel Tchad, Oricel in Côte d’Ivoire and Gemtel Telecom in South Sudan.

Some African governments have taken advantage of the uncertainty to take control.

On 2 May, Niger’s parliament voted to nationalise telecoms asset Sonitel, pulling back from a privatisation agreement to sell a 51% stake to LAP Green for $62.16m.

In January, Zambia’s President Michael Sata seized a 75% stake in telecoms company Zamtel that LAP Green had purchased for $257m during a privatisation in 2010.

LAP Green is challenging the government’s actions in court and asking for $480m in compensation.

Libya has had mixed success in Uganda. On 25 May, LAP Green’s $200m investment in Uganda Telecom was returned to the control of Libyan subsidiary UCOM, with chairman Wafik Al-Shater acknowledging the support of President Yoweri Museveni in recovering the company’s 69% stake.

Other debts in Uganda are keeping asset recovery in limbo, such as the 49% stake in the National Housing and Construction Company, controlled by the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (LAFICO).

In February, a court ruled in favour of Ugandan MP and businessman Hajji Mohamed Mbabaali, who claimed the Libyan investors owed him $9.5m. The ruling prohibited LAFICO from transferring or receiving dividends from its shareholding●

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