Which are more exposed to Muammer Gaddafi’s rants and raves: companies with interests in Libya, or companies in which Libya has an interest? The first group, primarily European oil producers, is affected directly. Total, Repsol and Eni have either shut down production in Libya or are moving to do so. Shares of Austria’s OMV, which gets about 10 per cent of its annual production from there, have tumbled 12.5 per cent since unrest started last week.
The second group, primarily comprising high-profile Italian companies, may have the more acute dilemma. Libya’s two main Italian assets are stakes in UniCredit and Juventus football club. Lafico, the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Co, has a seat on the board of Juventus to reflect its 7.5 per cent stake. (Libya also has a smaller, 3 per cent stake in Pearson, parent company of the Financial Times.)
The UniCredit stake was accumulated mostly when the bank’s share price was sunk by the global financial crisis. Alessandro Profumo was ousted as chief executive last September at least partly because of his overtures to Libya. The worry for his successor, Federico Ghizzoni, is that the Libyans become forced sellers. Mediobanca argues that the possibility of regime change in Libya creates an overhang which weighs on UniCredit’s share price, which is off about 6 per cent.
Colonel Gaddafi has been an investor in Italian assets for nearly 40 years. He took a 9 per cent stake in Fiat in 1976 in return for a $400m investment, after being wooed by the Agnelli family in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. He exited a decade later, by which time the stake was 15 per cent, pocketing a sevenfold return (a residual stake was retained until 2002). If he has to leave Libya, a job at a hedge fund surely awaits.
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