Libya should face no political obstacles to its purchase of an interest in Italian oil major ENI SpA, though buying a stake of 10% or more would be cause for concern, Italy’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“I don’t see any political problems,” Franco Frattini told reporters when asked about Libya’s interest in ENI. “Above all, the step taken by the Libyans of giving ... notice demonstrates their intention of not seeking control of the company, but a financial investment,” he said.
But Frattini later told Italian television that Italy “would start to worry” if Libya’s ownership in ENI touched 10%, saying a stake of about 8% would be “suitable.”
Libya’s ambassador to Rome, Hafed Gaddur, told Italian media over the weekend that Tripoli was interested in buying 5 to 10% of the Italian oil company.
The Italian government, which owns 30% of ENI, and Libya announced Tripoli’s interest in ENI jointly on Saturday, adding the deal would go ahead if there were no objections from Italian authorities. The head of Libya’s National Oil Corp, Shokri Ghanem, told Reuters in London on Monday that ENI’s securities were among those the corporation was considering.
Analysts said this could support ENI’s expansion plans and boost its shares, which rose sharply on Monday. One of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s main allies, the anti-immigrant Northern League, said on Sunday that Libya should honor its commitments to help Italy fight illegal immigration over the Mediterranean before forging corporate ties.
“Libya wants part of ENI? We want them to honor the deal with our country for fighting illegal immigrants. If it doesn’t respect this basic condition, any deal of this sort would not be proper,” said League parliamentarian Roberto Cota. (Reuters)