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Libya Has No Plan to Take Over Lender UniCredit, Ben Ammar Says

Libya has no intention to take over UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest bank, and the Arab country’s sovereign wealth fund shouldn’t be treated differently from the lender’s other investors, Mediobanca SpA board member Tarak Ben Ammar said.

The Central Bank of Libya owns 4.6 percent of the Milan- based lender and the Libyan Investment Authority holds 2.1 percent, according to an Aug. 4 statement from market regulator Consob. Mediobanca is UniCredit’s largest single shareholder, with about 6.8 percent.

The Northern League political party wants Consob to investigate whether Libya’s central bank and the sovereign fund should be considered a single entity, in which case Libyan voting rights could be frozen.

“I understand the Northern League’s fears, but I don’t understand why non-Arab money would be unsuspicious and Arab money is suspicious,” Ben Ammar said in a phone interview from Paris. “I’m not at all worried that the Libyans will ever take control, or would want to take control of any institution.”

Ben Ammar, a French-Tunisian financier who is also a board member at Telecom Italia SpA, said Arab sovereign wealth funds should be viewed as long-term investors. “These sovereign funds make investments for 50 years,” he said. “They’re the investments for when one day there’s no more oil.”

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest SpA holding company, along with Libya’s sovereign fund, are minority shareholders in Ben Ammar’s Paris-based Quinta Communications movie production and distribution company.

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