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Italy's oil company Eni lobbying Libyan rebels to get major role


14:24, August 25, 2011

ROME, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Italy's biggest oil company, Eni, is lobbying Libyan rebel leaders to hold its position as Libya's top energy producer after the end of Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule, local media said on Wendesday.

Eni has been in contact with rebel groups throughout the conflict to ensure it doesn't lose ground to French, Britain and the U.S. companies, a source close to the company was quoted by Adnkronos news agency.

France's Total, which gets 2.5 percent of its global production from Libya, is seen as "a particular threat" due to France's leading role in rallying the international community to the rebel cause, the source said.

Eni has been in Libya since 1959 and got 13 percent of its revenue there before the conflict.

"If and when Libya opens up for business again, Eni needs to be well positioned and the market will look at that closely," said Patrizio Pazzaglia, head of financial investments at Bank Insinger de Beaufort NV in Rome, who holds Eni shares.

"Libya's high quality crude was an important asset for the company and I'm sure they will work hard to guard it,"he said.

Libyan National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jebril was due to fly to Paris to meet French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday and will meet with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi Thursday.

France, which was the first country to recognize Libyan opposition leaders and led efforts to launch air strikes against Gaddafi, has also been lobbying rebel forces to ensure its companies are not forgotten once new contracts start getting assigned, according to another source familiar with the negotiations, Adnkronos reported.

"Sarkozy invested a lot in this venture and now he needs to show his voters France will get something out of it, so that's where Eni's concerns come in," said Nicolo Sartori, an energy and defence analyst at Rome's Institute for International Affairs.

"I don't think anyone will touch old contracts because international law protects them, but new ones are up for grabs,"he said.

Eni chairman Giuseppe Recchi said Tuesday in an interview he was confident any new government would honor pre-existing agreements. While he was not sure when production will resume, Recchi said an end to the conflict with Gaddafi would be "very positive."

Eni's chief executive officer Paolo Scaroni saw a "positive future for Eni in Libya," according to an interview with Corriere della Sera published Wednesday.

Eni has "a special relationship" with the rebels as "we were the first to meet" them in April in Benghazi, Scaroni said.

The company has said it may take about a year to restore Libyan oil output fully and two or three months to bring back full gas flows.

Eni's oil and gas volumes in Libya have fallen to about 50,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent from 280,000 a day before the conflict.


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