Industry Minister Suleiman al-Fitouri [Suleiman Ali Al-Fitory, Sulaiman Ali Al-Lteef Al-Fituri] (pictured) has told Reuters that Libya is considering selling off nine state-owned companies.
In a first step towards privatisation, the government has launched a process to estimate the value and performance of the companies, which include the Misrata-based Libyan Iron and Steel Company (LISCO), one of north Africa's largest steelmakers, with an annual capacity during normal times of 1.6 million tonnes. Last month, power shortages forced LISCO to slash output and shut down one of its two steel melting shops.
Another company being considered for sale is the Abu Kammash petrochemicals plant, which has been shut down, and which had failed to find a buyer in the past; also on the list is soft drinks firm, and a factory that makes truck trailers in Tajoura.
The Minister said investors could buy up to 100 percent of firms on sale or operate them under public-private partnerships, adding:
"We need to evaluate first, then we make the decision ... I think the valuation will take some time, maybe three months."
He acknowledged that foreign investors were reluctant to enter Libya because of the security situation, but said some were still expressing interest. To improve legal security, a major concern for foreign firms, the government will prepare a new investment law to bring legal protections in line with international standards, he said without providing details.
Reuters says another potential problem for Libya's privatisation plans is that investors may want to trim companies' workforces - a politically sensitive step which could be particularly risky because of the volatile security environment.