Libyan Factions Fighting Over Biggest Stake in Italy's Retelit

  • Luxembourg court authorizes seizure of 15% stake in company
  • Retelit fiber-optic clients include U.S. Department of Defense

The two Libyan factions which are fighting for control of the country are also tussling in a Luxembourg court over the ownership of the biggest stake in Italian fiber-network operator Retelit SpA.

The court has authorized the seizure of the 15 percent holding in Retelit, whose clients include the U.S. Defense Department, at the request of state-owned Libyan Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Holding Company, known as LPTIC, according to court documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

Libya has two administrations, one based in Tripoli and another internationally recognized government in the east in Tobruk. Both are claiming ownership of LPTIC, which holds the Retelit stake via a financial vehicle, according to the documents. Two Libyan governments emerged after the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. The rival governments are fighting for control of the north African state and its assets, including a $60 billion fund built up from oil profits.

Retelit said the dispute isn’t disrupting the company’s business. "The seizure doesn’t affect the management and operations of the company because it’s related to one of its investors," the company said in a e-mailed statement. Retelit is focused on the execution of its business plan, which is being supported by the positive business trend in previous quarters, it said.

James MacFarlane, a London-based spokesman for the Tobruk-backed LPTIC, didn’t comment. Aurelia Cohrs, the lawyer who filed the seizure claim for Tripoli’s LPTIC, didn’t return several calls and e-mails requesting comment during the last two weeks.

Retelit’s customers include Vodafone Group Plc and Orange SA. It provides telecommunications services for the U.S. Army at bases in Naples, Vicenza, and Aviano, Italy. The company operates about 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) of fiber-optic cables, nine metropolitan networks in Italy and 18 data centers. It’s been listed on the Milan Stock Exchange since 2000.

Shares of Retelit were unchanged in Milan at 58 euro cents, giving the company a value of 95 million euros ($104 million).

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