Tripoli, 20 November:
More Libyan funds invested in Italy, in car-manufacturer Fiat and the football club Juventus, were unfrozen yesterday by the Italian courts in Rome.
Libya first bought into the then-struggling car manufacturer in 1977 at the invitation of the company’s founding family, the Agnellis. The Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (LAFICO) took a stake of around 15 percent, which they sold in 1986. However, in 2002 LAFICO made a further investment in Fiat, buying around two percent of the shares.
LAFICO also owns 7.5 percent of shares in Italian football team Juventus, worth around €9 million. Juventus is managed, and 60 percent owned, by the same Agnelli family who have a major holding in Fiat. LAFICO, who first invested in Juventus in 2001, is the second-largest shareholder in the football club. Football enthusiast Saadi Qaddafi sat on the club’s board of directors before leaving to join the Perugia team in 2003.
Earlier in the month, the Italian courts ruled that shares in UniCredit, one of Europe’s largest banks, and the aerospace company Finmeccanica should be returned to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA). A 0.58 percent stake (worth €354 million) in ENI, Italy’s leading oil company and the largest foreign oil business in Libya, was handed back in July.
By being returned to the LAFICO portfolio, these substantial assets can now be used in financial transactions, or sold. What is not yet clear is how much in the way of dividend income from these holdings, which would have been kept in escrow accounts, is also being returned to Libya, along with the assets themselves.