Angola’s government, led by President Joao Lourenco, plans to debut Unitel, the nation’s largest telecom firm, in an IPO this year. This comes after the government took over shares from Africa’s first female billionaire, Isabel dos Santos.
Secretary of State for Finance and Treasury Ottoniel dos Santos disclosed that Angola also aims to sell part of Banco de Fomento Angola, the second-biggest bank, through the stock market later this year. A total of 26 state-owned firms and assets have been earmarked for disposal in 2024.
“Our focus is on finding a mechanism to accelerate the privatization process of the state’s indirect holdings in these entities through the stock market,” dos Santos said. This move aligns with Angola’s interest in capitalizing on the growing demand for riskier emerging-market assets, fueled by expectations of US interest-rate cuts.
Isabel dos Santos: Legal battles and asset freeze amid corruption allegations
Dos Santos, who has long faced accusations of corruption, particularly during her father’s presidency, has been embroiled in legal battles, including a recent setback in which a London judge froze £580 million ($734 million) of her assets, citing defaults on loans involving Unitel.
In November 2022, the Angolan government seized a 50-percent stake in Unitel from dos Santos and her deceased father’s associate, Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, effectively nationalizing the telecommunications giant.
This privatization drive follows the broader anti-corruption initiative in Angola, which has gained international praise but has also faced criticism for alleged political bias. Critics argue that the campaign disproportionately targets political opponents while overlooking corruption within the ruling party.
London judge’s freeze order escalates legal woes for Isabel dos Santos
In a significant setback for dos Santos, a London judge froze £580 million ($734 million) of her assets in December 2023 as part of a legal battle with Unitel SA. The freeze order, connected to defaulting on loans totaling around €325 million ($410.5 million) and $44 million ($55.6 million), adds to the mounting legal challenges against dos Santos.
As Angola positions itself on the global stage, the planned IPO for Unitel and the stake sale in Banco de Fomento Angola reflect the government’s commitment to fostering economic growth, attracting foreign investors, and addressing long-standing concerns related to corruption and financial mismanagement.