May 19, 2010 / 3:33 PM / in 8 years

Libya to float shares in chemical plant

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya will list the state-owned Abu-Kammash petrochemical complex on the stock market, an official said, the latest step to open up an economy that is attracting growing interest from foreign investors.

After decades of Socialist policies and international isolation, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has begun tentative economic liberalisation in his oil exporting country, including a programme to sell state enterprises.

Gamal Lamushe, chairman of the Libyan Investment and Privatisation Board, said companies scheduled for partial privatisation this year also included a state-owned manufacturer of electronic equipment and a public works company.

He told Reuters in an interview that a 10 percent stake in the Libyan Iron and Steel Company would be floated on the Libyan Stock Market. The sell-off was announced last year but with no details of the amount to be offered.

He also said there were no new banking sector flotations planned for the near future.

“This year we have about 22 units to be put up for ownership transfer programmes,” Lamushe told Reuters late on Tuesday. “Abu-Kammash petrochemical complex will ... be floated (on the Libyan Stock Exchange).”

The plant is in Western Libya on the Mediterranean coast. It produces chlorine, salt, PVC, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda and employs about 1,300 workers, according to the Internet site of Libya’s General Company for Chemical Industries.

INVESTORS WANTED

Some foreign investors say their interest in Libya is tempered by an unpredictable business environment, and the fitful progress of economic reform.

Detailing other privatisations scheduled for this year, Lamushe said: “We also have the General Electronic Company, and the procedure will be launched for establishing a partnership.

“We are searching for a partner or an active and strong investor for the General Company of Public Works.”

The General Electronic Company manufacturers audiovisual equipment at a plant in Tajura, near Tripoli.

The General Company of Public Works carries out infra-structure improvements — a sector that is booming because of a multi-billion-dollar government programme to upgrade roads, railways and public utilities.

Libya’s banking sector has attracted foreign interest, with France’s BNP Paribas and Portugal’s (Banco) Espirito Santo owning stakes in Libyan banks.

HSBC and Standard Chartered are among the foreign banks shortlisted for a joint banking licence with a Libyan partner.

The chief executive of Libya’s Stock Market announced earlier this year that stakes in the country’s two mobile phone firms, Libyana and al Madar, would be floated, starting at the end of this year.

Lamushe said the companies were still being evaluated by their own executives and officials from his agency to decide how and when to proceed.

“Until now, there is neither a specified date nor a percentage (of the companies that will be floated). The flotations will be done after the evaluation work,” he said.

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