VTB Halts Mozambique Sovereign Debt Plan After Clashes

Rebel clashes with government forces in Mozambique have prompted VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest bank, to halt a proposed sovereign debt transaction in the country.

Rebels tied to the opposition Mozambique National Resistance party, known as Renamo, said they killed 36 soldiers in a clash earlier this month, a claim refuted by the government, which said only two people died. Renamo, which fought a 15-year civil war against the ruling Frelimo party until 1992, this year attacked arms depots and buses, killing several people, in central Mozambique, forcing the closure of rail lines used by coal mines owned by Rio Tinto Plc.

“The situation has changed. In past years there was like a silent agreement” between Renamo and Frelimo, Amilcar Barros, a director of VTB’s African unit, said in an interview yesterday in his offices in Luanda, Angola’s capital. “The political risks have increased significantly. I think there’s a lot of people reconsidering.”

VTB, which is based in Moscow, was considering a transaction with the government tied to infrastructure development in Mozambique, site of the world’s largest discovery of natural gas in the past decade, Barros said, declining to be more specific.

The bank, which bases its African operation in Angola, Africa’s largest crude oil producer behind Nigeria, is considering oil and gas investment in both nations as well as Uganda, Barros said. A ports project in Namibia was also assessed.

Kwanza River

A hydroelectric dam project on the Kwanza River in Angola is being evaluated as well as companies in the country that are transforming from importers to light industrial producers, he said.

“Made in Angola is now a slogan,” Igor Skvortsov, Chairman of VTB’s African unit, said in the same interview. Angola is “attractive because now we have transparent rules of investment regulated by government, the central bank and the foreign investment agency, Anip. It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely doable.”

VTB is looking to conclude a transaction with the Angolan government similar to the $1 billion line of credit issued a year ago, Skvortsov said, declining to be more specific because negotiations are at an early stage.

The company is considering corporate bond opportunities in the nation as early as next year in industries such as oil and gas and telecommunications, Barros said.

Consolidation will occur among Angola’s banks over the next five to 10 years, while VTB is not considering acquisitions, Barros said. The company also has no plans to enter retail banking in the country.

“Twenty-three banks all want to play in the same space,” Barros said. “There’s a bit of congestion.”

VTB’s chief competitors in Angola are South Africa’s Standard Bank Group and Banco Angolano de Investimentos, he said.

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