Libyan unrest is causing significant damage to Italian companies in the North African country. “We have stopped everything in Libya. It is impossible to work,” Riccardo Zago, Deputy CEO of Ferretti International, an engineering and construction company headquartered in the Italian northern town of Dalmine and with a branch in Misrata, told Xinhua. “In 2008 we brought to Libya our machinery and equipments worth 10-12 million euros,” he said.
Ferretti International, which used to have more than 30 Italians and nearly 1,000 workers from various countries in Libya, shipped back its Italian personnel following the 2011 unrest in the country which led to downfall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. “A year later we restored our activities, but last summer we had to bring back our personnel again. The situation is getting out of hand,” Zago told Xinhua. “We are now also considering bringing back the machinery and equipments, but this is not an easy thing given the current situation,” he added.
The Chamber of Commerce Italafrica, aimed at promoting cooperation between Italian and African companies, has estimated an immediate loss of at least 1 billion euros (1.14 billion U.S. dollars) for Italian companies operating in Libya. “Yet it is difficult to assess the true damage as in Libya there are hundreds of Italian small and micro businesses besides big companies,” Alfredo Carmine Cestari, President of the Chamber of Commerce Italafrica, explained to Xinhua. He recalled that Italy traditionally is one of the main agro-food and technology suppliers of Libya. Infrastructures, health, textiles, raw materials, building materials and telecommunications are among the other important business sectors. “The damage is very serious, as commercial relationships deeply rooted in the past have been interrupted, also with additional loss entailed by speed evacuation,” Cestari said. “Many Italian firms will go bankrupt as the Libyan market was indispensable for them,” he highlighted. The new loss adds up to the enormous damage already triggered by Gaddafi’s downfall, Cestari told Xinhua. Before that, annual bilateral trade volume between Italy and Libya was estimated at around 5 billion euros, he said.
Libya’s rampant instability has also an impact on broader initiatives, Cestari added. “We have an important project funded by the European Union (EU) linking more than 1,000 companies in Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, but any contact with Libya has now been stopped,” he pointed out. Last but not least, the concern about Libya’s situation could also negatively affect Expo Milano 2015, the next world exposition which is on schedule from May 1 to Oct. 31 in Italy’s business capital Milan, he concluded. (1 euro = 1.14 U.S. dollars)