Oi reconsiders Africatel sale as Angolan relationship thaws

12 May 2015

Brazilian telecoms group Oi SA is reconsidering the sale of its African holding company Africatel, CEO Bayard Gontijo told Reuters during an interview in New York. The volte face follows Oi’s efforts to patch up its relationship with Unitel of Angola – arguably the jewel in Africatel’s crown. Mr Gontijo commented: ‘We’re working with two scenarios. One is selling the asset. The other one is fixing those old disputes … in a structure where we have the shareholders’ agreement respected by both sides and we can then consolidate Unitel’s numbers … We are changing the centre of gravity from Lisbon to Brasilia.’ Gontijo added that the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), a major shareholder and creditor of the Oi group, has strong business relationships in Angola, which has proved advantageous when negotiating with Unitel’s majority owner, Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, since October 2013’s ill-fated tie-up with Portugal Telecom (Portugal Telecom SGPS) Oi has held a 75% controlling stake in Netherlands-registered Africatel Holdings, which in turn owns stakes in Unitel of Angola (25%), Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicacoes (CST) in Sao Tome and Principe (51%), Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) of Namibia (34%), and Cabo Verde Telecom (including mobile arm CV Movel [40%]). Oi’s fellow shareholder in Africatel Holdings is Samba Luxco, a Helios Investors affiliate. In September 2014 Oi’s board of directors authorised the company’s management team to take the necessary steps to sell Africatel Holdings. Despite reported interest from pan-African telcos MTN Group and Vodacom Group, no bids had been submitted by the time of writing.

Meanwhile, with reference to the ongoing consolidation speculation in Oi’s domestic market, Gontijo told the news agency: ‘I cannot say if the consolidation is going to be in 2015, 2016 or 2017. Let’s not put a deadline on it, because the stronger we get in terms of the turnaround, the stronger we are going to be to sit down with our peers for a consolidation.’

Angola, Brazil, Africatel Holdings, Oi, Unitel (Angola)