Libyan stock market opens for the first since Qaddafi’s fall


Libya’s stock market opens on Thursday for the first time since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi with trading in 10 companies valued at $3.1 billion (2.4 billion euros), its general manager told AFP.

It is a modest but significant step for the North African nation which is seeking to re-launch its economy after decades of dictatorship that stifled private companies and subjected banks to the whims of Qaddafi and his clan.

“We open trading in 10 companies with a capital value of 3.9 billion Libyan dinars,” Ahmed Karoud said ahead of the inauguration as technicians hurriedly configured backlit panels blinking the colors of the revolution.

Most of the shares being traded represent the financial sector, including private banks and insurance firms, although a cement company also made the cut in the country which places reconstruction high on its agenda.

An Islamic fund and a real estate company would start trading in June, Karoud added, with oil companies and telecommunications giants Al-Madar and Libyana next in line.

“Before February 17 there was no rule of law,” Karoud said in reference to the start date of the revolt that plunged the country into a civil conflict that ended with the toppling and killing of Qaddafi in October.

The Mediterranean state, he said, hopes to become the main financial link between Europe and the rest of Africa. Its stock market, he added, was modeled on Abu Dhabi’s and has ambitions of expanding.

“We still don’t have a government but we have the capacity and infrastructure necessary to become the financial hub of North Africa,” he said predicting a new chapter of foreign investment, innovation and development.

Karoud said a pro-Qaddafi brigade seized the former stock market building in June last year simply because it took a fancy to its location.

Employees had to evacuate documents and backups in their private cars, he said.

“This opening sends a sign to the world that Libya is now a stable country where the economy is kicking off again,” he said, adding investors can expect huge returns on investments in the coming years.

All companies traded would enjoy a five-year tax break in a bid to boost trading, he said, which will also be open to foreign investors.

The 10 companies are Wahda Banks, Al-Tijari Bank, insurance company Al-Mutahida lil-Tamin, Libyan Insurance Company, Al-Ahliya Cement, Tijara wa Al-Tanmiya Bank, Al-Sahara insurance company, Mutawasit banks, Gumhouriya bank, and the stock exchange itself.

The Libyan Stock Market is also opening a branch in the second city of Benghazi, allowing buyers in the east and west to make purchases. It also hopes to set up an electronic trading facility in the coming months.