TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Templeton Asset Management fund manager Mark Mobius said he was eyeing private equity and other investments in Libya and said the stock market had enormous potential for growth.
Mobius, a prominent emerging market investor, told Reuters at the launch of a new Egyptian brokerage office in Tripoli he saw potential for tourism, infrastructure and telecoms investments.
Libya, holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves, has attracted a wave of interest from Arab and international companies, operating mainly in energy and construction, since most international sanctions were lifted in 2004.
“This market is very exciting now because the government is embarking on a privatisation programme to list many of the state enterprises. Although the market is small now, the potential for growth is enormous,” Mobius said, speaking late on Sunday.
“And the stock exchange is well equipped now. They established good systems to get the market going,” the Templeton executive chairman said.
Libya has said it plans to sell shares in four state firms via initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2010 and will enact a law next year offering tax breaks to companies listing on the stock exchange in an attempt to get more Libyans to invest.
“Before we can start investing we will need to have a custodian bank set up with our global custodian,” Mobius said.
“I hope that they accelerate the opening so that we can get some custodian banks in here to invest, because we are very eager. We want to do something,” he said.
The Libyan exchange now has 10 listed firms, mostly banks and insurance companies. Shares worth about 2.1 million dinars traded in October, a stock market report said.
Foreign firms have been lining up for oil deals and infrastructure contracts in a country which boasts a long Mediterranean coastline but few top class hotels.
“The potential here for hospitality and tourism is tremendous. That’s one area. The other area is infrastructure, roads, bridges, whatever, if that’s privatised,” Mobius said.
He said power and telecoms were other sectors of interest in the country of about 6.4 million people.
Up for sale in the IPOs are shares in the government’s two mobile telephone operators, as well as a steel firm and a bank.
“We have frontier funds and this is an ideal frontier market. Not too many people are researching it yet,” he said, adding that contracts in Libya were “just as good as anywhere else in the world”.
“In Libya we’d like to do private equity as well because we have a private equity fund ... You don’t need a company that’s already listed. We can go into companies before they’re listed, so we’re really interested in that,” he said.