Egyptian investment bank Beltone Financial has begun operations in Libya, hoping to take advantage of a potential boom in new share offerings, a company official said on Sunday.

As many as 25 initial public offerings (IPOs) by both private and state owners could be made on the bourse within eight months, said Khalid Hilal, managing director of Beltone Securities International, a Beltone subsidiary opening in Tripoli.

The Libyan Stock Market now has only 10 listed companies.

Libya is at a preparatory stage. The securities market is at an early stage, infrastructure is at an early stage, Hilal told reporters at a ceremony to mark the subsidiary opening.

Any investment bank that comes to the country from the start will build a kind of investment culture, Hilal said.

The oil-rich North African country remains largely unaffected by the global financial crisis due its centralised banking system, high oil and gas reserves and low overseas investments, he added.

A number of prominent foreign energy firms such as BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell have opened offices in the country since Western sanctions were lifted in 2004.

After years of being off limits, Libya offers the best growth prospects in North Africa, Sara Hassan, Middle East and North Africa analyst at IHS Global Insight, told Reuters last week.

Like Beltone, a number of other companies from neighbouring Egypt have also invested in Libya.

These include paint maker Pachin, which plans to start production in its $1.66 million Libyan facility in January to tap growing demand for construction in Libya.

For countries that have good relations with the regime there, the experience has been extremely fruitful, Hassan said.

(Writing by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing Bernard Orr)