Angola Plans to Open Up Telecoms Industry to Foreign Bidders

Updated on
  • Government received expressions of interest in fourth license
  • President Lourenco countering influence of Dos Santos family

A sign sits above the headquarters of Angola Telecom in Luanda, Angola.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Angola plans to sell a minority stake in a state-owned telecommunications provider and hold an auction for a fourth industry operator as new President Joao Lourenco shakes up the business environment and reduces the influence of his predecessor’s family.

The government of the oil-rich west African country has received several expressions of interest from local and foreign investors in the new telecommunications license, state-owned news agency Angop said, citing the country’s Ministry of Telecommunications Jose Carvalho da Rocha. The winning bidder will be able to offer fixed-line, mobile, internet and paid-television services, Rocha said.

A 45 percent stake in Angola Telecom will be sold, the minister said. The state-owned firm competes with Unitel SA, controlled by Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s oldest daughter and Africa’s richest woman. The third operator is Movicel Telecomunicacoes Lda, which is also privately owned.

The move comes as Lourenco seeks to distance Angola from the influence of former President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and his family. Earlier this month, he fired Isabel Dos Santos from her position as as chair of state-owned oil company Sonangol, while the government told the state television station to cancel contracts for the management of a local and an international state-owned channel with two of Dos Santos’s younger children.

Tendering Process

The rules of the telecommunications license tender will be made available to investors by the end of the year and the Angolan state will retain a 45 percent stake in the new operator, said Rocha. The tender is expected to take more than three months, he said.

Lourenco became President of Africa’s second-biggest oil producer in September, replacing dos Santos, who was in power for 38 years. Lourenco has vowed to open up Angola’s economy to more competition and reduce corruption as it struggles to overcome an economic crisis that began soon after oil prices started to fall in 2014. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of the country’s exports.

Auctions for new telecommunications licenses in Africa are rare, as most countries have already held privatization initiatives. The continent’s biggest wireless carrier by subscriber numbers is Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd., while Vodafone Group Plc unit Vodacom Group Ltd. is the largest by market value.

Zambia has also started the process of auctioning a fourth mobile-phone license. Vodafone is one of the interested parties, a person familiar with the matter said in September.

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