Dash for profit in post-war Libya carve-up

 

British businesses are scrambling to return to Libya in anticipation of the end to the country's civil war, but they are concerned that European and North American rivals are already stealing a march as a new race to turn a profit out of the war-torn nation begins.

Business leaders with previous experience of making deals in Libya have told The Independent that plans are in hand to send a trade mission to Benghazi to meet leaders of the Transitional National Council (TNC).

Lord Trefgarne, a Conservative peer and chair of the Libyan British Business Council, said he hoped to be able to lead a group to the country "by late September, early October". He said: "Any mission would be done in consultation with the TNC and would only be made if adequate security protections were in place. I believe we should be trying to make sure we can get whatever business we can."

After five months of fighting in the world's 12th-largest oil producer, industry figures are acutely aware that billions could be made in the coming years from rebuilding Libya. Immediate focus will fall on the country's oil fields that are currently producing a 10th of the 1.6 million barrels a day that were exported pre-revolution.

There is also intense lobbying for the multibillion-pound reconstruction contracts that are likely to be offered once fighting ends. The Independent conducted a straw poll of more than 20 Western companies with previous business commitments in Libya. None would talk publicly about its plans but many admitted privately that they were keen to return once security allowed.

"It is still too fluid a situation in Libya to be able to say exactly what we are doing," said one official at a company involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq. "If business goes back to Libya, we will undoubtedly follow."

French and German officials have already begun trade negotiations with the TNC. Britain has a growing "diplomatic" mission within rebel-held Benghazi but no Trade and Investment officials on the ground, leading to concerns among some business leaders that Britain is failing to capitalise on helping the rebels secure regime change. "It's all politics, no commercial stuff," said one businessman with experience in Libya. "I think that's a mistake. We need to be getting down there as soon as possible."

In the years preceding February's revolution, British businesses played a key part in wooing Muammar Gaddafi – part of a wider campaign by Western intelligence agencies to roll back Libya's pariah status in exchange for investment opportunities and co-operation in the fight against violent Islamists.

Sir Mark Allen, a veteran Arabist and deputy head of MI6 who led negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi, was even hired by BP after his retirement to help to secure drilling rights. The oil giant is the only big British company to state publicly that it plans to return to Libya, but it has no technicians on the ground. The Italian energy giant ENI already has people working with rebels in eastern oil fields.

Although there were early concerns that the opposition forces might punish Britain for its previously favourable approaches to Colonel Gaddafi, TNC officials have indicated they will honour contracts made before the revolution.

Mike Pullen, a partner at DLA Piper and an adviser to the former regime, said there was still goodwill among opposition leaders because of the prominent role Britain had taken in Nato attacks on regime forces. "The TNC will want to deal with people they're used to dealing with, people they understand – and they understand the Brits."

Lord Trefgarne said he believed Britain would not be overshadowed by its competitors. "The success of the French and Italians inside Libya has been somewhat overstated," he said. "We've been dealing with competition from other countries all over the world for decades and I'm fully confident of our ability to do so in Libya."

Rebel leaders offer hope to Yvonne Fletcher's family

The killer of WPC Yvonne Fletcher may finally be brought to justice under an agreement between the British Government and the anti-Gaddafi rebels set to take control in Libya.

Twenty-seven years after the policewoman, 25, was shot outside the Libyan Embassy in London, British ministers believe they have an understanding with Libya's National Transitional Council that her killer will be tracked down. Suspects from inside the embassy were allowed to leave the UK under the protection of diplomatic immunity. Queenie Fletcher, the mother of the murdered policewoman, said: "This is the best chance to find my daughter's killer. Even after all these years, I very much hope that somebody is brought to justice."

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said yesterday: "I am reasonably confident that a judicial process designed to bring that heinous crime to court would indeed take place." He added: "That is an issue that the British Government will wish to pursue with the new Libyan authorities."

Andrew Grice

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power