Libya Holdings bets on reconstruction

Libya Holdings Group is making a big bet on the country’s reconstruction — even as a civil war rages and jihadi militants advance on its cities — by finalising a deal to buy one of region’s largest cement firms and private-sector employers.

On Tuesday, the group said it had bought a majority stake in Libyan Cement Company, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, for an undisclosed sum. Ahmed Ben Halim, founder of Libya Holdings, said the deal was worth “tens of millions of dollars” and that it would entail millions

“I’m not crazy,” he said, when asked about his decision to invest as fighting continues across towns in the east, south and west. “We have a long-term strategic plan that Libya’s going to rebuild its infrastructure. And a key element of this is cement.”

Mr Ben Halim, the son of a former Libyan prime minister who spent the years of former ruler Muammer Gaddafi’s reign in exile, said a deal had been in the works before Libya descended into a civil war 11 months ago.

With large parts of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, laid waste by the conflict, two of LCC’s main plants currently lie dormant. A third lies near the eastern city of Derna.

“When we first started working on this, the possibility of conflict was a growing concern,” he said. “But the fact things have descended to where they have is an issue.”

LCC employs 2,300 people, making it the largest private sector firm in eastern Libya. It was owned by Austria’s Asamer Industrials group, which went bankrupt and placed ownership of the firm in a holding company, QuadraCir.

Mr Ben Halim said his holding company will acquire a majority stake in LCC and had recruited 15 other investors including “leading merchant families” of the Arabian Peninsula.

Despite the current conflict, Mr Ben Halim — a former executive at Saudi International Bank and the Saudi Monetary Authority — said he remained optimistic about Libya’s future.

“Libya is an oil country which hasn’t happened,” he said. “Eventually, Libya will settle down eventually it will become more akin to some of these oil-producing countries in the Gulf.”

Source; FT

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