By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 28 October 2013:
There was surprise this evening after Industry Minister Suleiman Al-Fituri is reported to have said that . . .[restrict]the government was considering the sale to foreign buyers of nine state companies, including Misrata steel plant LISCO.
Fituri was quoted by Reuters as saying that the government had embarked upon a valuation of these assets. Besides Lisco, the largest iron and steel plant in Africa and the biggest employer in Misrata, among companies also apparently in the frame for privatisation are a soft drinks firm and a trailer manufacturer in Tajoura.
“We need to evaluate first, then we make the decision,” Fituri told Reuters. “I think the valuation will take some time, maybe three months.”
The news agency also reported Fituri as announcing that a new investment law was in the offing, which would permit investors to buy the whole of a state company or operate it in under a public-private partnership.
This being the case, the Zeidan government would appear to be seeking to reverse Decree 207 of 2012, which forced foreign partners in joint venture companies to cut their shareholding to 49 percent. The GNC would apparently be asked to approve a return to something like the 2010 Qaddafi-era investment law ,which gave foreign investors the right to own 100 percent of a Libyan business.
The widespread surprise at Fituri’s announcement stems not simply from the security situation, but from the difficult rationalisation that foreign owners would seek, not least in terms of workforce numbers. The minister’s office could not be reached for comment this evening, [/restrict]