UPDATE 1-EU adds Libya sovereign fund to sanctions list

Tue Mar 8, 2011 4:32pm EST

* Libyan Investment Authority to face sanctions from Friday

* Central bank and three other organisations also targeted

(Adds details on institutions added to list)

By Luke Baker

BRUSSELS, March 8 (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Tuesday to add the Libyan Investment Authority and several other financial organisations to its sanctions list, with the restrictions expected to come into force on Friday.

Diplomats said the EU's 27 countries had agreed to impose sanctions on the $70 billion Libyan Investment Authority, the central bank, three other financial organisations and one individual, a former Libyan finance official. The list already covers 26 Libyans including Muammar Gaddafi and his family.

The details of the restrictions are expected to be published in the EU Official Journal -- the record of all EU legislation -- on Friday, when they legally come into force, diplomats said.

"The entities include the LIA and related financial institutions," one EU diplomat said, adding the list would be finalised on Wednesday and would be "authorised" if no member state raised objections by Thursday at 1100 GMT.

The LIA was set up in 2006 with about $40 billion from Libya's vast oil and gas income. It has expanded rapidly over the past five years with a range of investments in high-profile European assets, including banks and a defence company.

Many of its investments are in Italian companies, including the Juventus soccer team, of which the LIA owns around 7.5 percent. Italy was the colonial ruler of Libya from 1911 to 1943 and continues to have close business and trade ties.

The new sanctions would freeze LIA investments in all EU countries, and any other stakes that asset management firms oversee on behalf of the sovereign wealth fund. The LIA would not be able to receive dividends or sell any holdings.

Among the fund's blue-chip investments is a more than 3 percent stake of publishing group Pearson Plc (PSON.L), owner of the Financial Times. Pearson froze the stake on March 1 and said no dividends would be paid to the LIA.

Other holdings include 2.6 percent of Italian bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI), more than 2 percent of Italian aerospace and defence company Finmeccanica SpA (SIFI.MI) and, via a related investment vehicle, nearly 2 percent of Italian carmaker Fiat (FIA.MI).

Luxembourg said on Tuesday it had frozen bank accounts belonging to the LIA and the Libyan central bank, with less than one billion euros affected in total. [ID:nBRU011350]

The EU has imposed a range of sanctions on Libyan individuals, including Gaddafi and his immediate family, as well as an arms embargo, travel bans and a ban on exports of equipment such as riot gear and tear gas that could be used by Libyan security forces against anti-Gaddafi rebels.

(Reporting by Julien Toyer and Luke Baker, editing by Rex Merrifield)

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