City firms look to Libya as UN halts sanctions

City firms are eyeing Libya as a new target for offices after the suspension of UN sanctions following the handover of the Lockerbie bombing suspects.

Gareth Driver, a partner at South African firm Werksmans, says: “Libya is going to become of interest. But it is only this week [that the lifting of UN sanctions has been] announced.”

Driver says that Werksmans will be looking particularly at telecoms opportunities. He adds that a major telecoms client has expressed an intention to break into the market.

The firm, marketed as “the gateway to Africa”, has a network of associated firms. Driver says a link with a Libyan firm would be in keeping with strategy, but has yet to be discussed.

White & Case partner Margaret Cole says: “Our strategy is one of active interest in the area and a preparedness when we have the opportunities to support that.”

Cole says firms like Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Herbert Smith, Linklaters and the big US firms have done work in developing countries, and she does not think that Libya will be particularly problematic, adding: “All of the big firms that actively do work around the world would have the capability.”

Although EU sanctions remain in place, the EU Euro-Med trade group has granted Libya observer status.