Telecoms tower. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SUSANA GONZALEZ
Telecoms tower. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SUSANA GONZALEZ

Lisbon/Luanda — Angola plans to sell a minority stake in a state-owned telecommunications provider and hold an auction for a fourth industry operator, as 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 licence, state-owned news agency Angop said, citing the country’s telecommunications minister Jose Carvalho da Rocha. The winning bidder will be able to offer fixed-line, mobile, internet and paid-television services, Rocha said.

A 45% stake in Angola Telecom will be sold, the minister said. The state-owned firm competes with Unitel, controlled by Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s oldest daughter and Africa’s richest woman. The third operator is Movicel Telecomunicacoes, 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. He fired Isabel Dos Santos from her position as chair of state-owned oil company Sonangol, in November, 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% 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% of the country’s exports.

Auctions for new telecommunications licenses in Africa are rare, as most countries have already held privatisation initiatives. The continent’s biggest wireless carrier by subscriber numbers is MTN, while Vodacom is the largest by market value on the JSE.

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

Bloomberg

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