Angola’s President Joao Lourenco has authorised the privatisation of state-held stakes in three telecoms network operators, TV Cabo Angola, Multitel and Net One, Novo Jornal reported. Presidential Orders No. 184/20 and No. 185/20 authorise the privatisation via initial public offering (IPO) of the state’s holdings in TV Cabo Angola and Multitel, respectively, and delegate powers to the Minister of Finance (with the power to sub-delegate) to verify the validity and legality of all subsequent actions in the privatisation process. Presidential Order No. 186/20 authorises the privatisation via a ‘limited tender by prior qualification’ of the state’s shares in Net One, while similarly delegating powers to the Minister.
The stakes up for grabs are: 49.27% in TV Cabo Angola (held via wholly state-owned Angola Telecom [AT]); 90% in Multitel (held via AT [30%] and two other wholly state-owned groups, oil firm Sonangol [40%] and Banco de Comercio e Industria [BCI, 20%]); and 51% in Net One (held via MSTelcom, itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sonangol).
TeleGeography notes that under Angola’s privatisation programme, stakes in five other telecoms operators are earmarked for sale this year, namely: AT, MSTelcom, Angola Cables (AT owning 51%, MSTelcom 9%), Angola Comunicacoes e Sistemas (100% owned by Sonangol/MSTelcom) and mobile market leader Unitel. Sonangol is scheduled for privatisation in 2022, while a share sale for BCI was approved by a presidential order in May 2020 but has not yet been carried out. Telephone directory company ELTA and postal operator ENCTA are also on the privatisation list.
Regarding Unitel, Angola’s ‘PROPRIV’ privatisation programme website says that a 25% stake in the cellco currently held by MSTelcom will be sold via public tender, with an initial target of ‘2020’ (delayed), but Sonangol also owns a direct 25% Unitel stake, acquired from Brazilian telco Oi in January 2020.
Looking at the non-state-held 50% of shares in Unitel: recall that Angolan tycoon Isabel dos Santos lost control of her company Vidatel – owner of a 25% Unitel stake – in December 2020 under a decision of the Supreme Court of the British Virgin Islands which appointed judicial administrators to manage Vidatel’s assets. This event came a year after the stake was seized under a Provincial Court of Luanda ruling, as part of President Lourenco’s anti-corruption drive targeting assets held by figures associated with the regime of Ms dos Santos’ father, former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The other 25% of Unitel shares might also come under state scrutiny, due to ownership by Geni, a company fronted by retired Angolan general Leopoldino do Nascimento (‘General Dino’), a former adviser to Mr dos Santos who once held the post of Head of Communications for the presidency. General Dino and Helder Vieira Dias Junior (‘General Kopelipa’) were forced to return certain assets to the state in October 2020 – in sectors including brewing, cement, supermarkets and housing, but not telecoms – and are currently prohibited from leaving Angola by a ruling of the Attorney General’s Office amidst criminal proceedings stemming from suspicions of benefitting from the dos Santos regime’s dealings with China International Fund.