The Angolan government is already trying to find an international buyer for a stake in local telco Unitel, just a month after seizing control of the business from its disgraced former owners
According to Angolan media sources, the Angolan government is considering privatising Unitel, with Minister for Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, saying the move would provide greater stability and efficiency for the state’s strategic asset.
The move indicates a rapid turn around for the Unitel, which was finally nationalised just last month, following a lengthy legal battle.
These ownership issues centred around Unitel’s entanglement with Isabel dos Santos and Leopoldino do Nascimento, who until recently each held 25% stake in the operator via Vidatel and Geni, respectively.
Isabel dos Santos is the eldest child of former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola until 2017. During her father’s time in office, dos Santos amassed an enormous Angolan business empire, making her a billionaire and one of Africa’s richest women.
However, since her father’s retirement, the new Angolan government has been trying to prosecute dos Santos for corruption, arguing that she had illegally exploited her privileged position and misappropriated public funds.
Leopoldino do Nascimento, better known in Angola as General Dino, who served as the head of the ex-President’s Communication Service, is facing similar accusations.
In 2019, the government ordered that dos Santos’ Angolan bank accounts be frozen and her stakes in Angolan businesses – including Unitel and Banco de Fomento Angola – be seized by the state.
The Angolan government ultimately took the decision to seize do Nascimento’s stake in Unitel in January 2022, while dos Santos’ stake was seized at the end of last month after the failure of her last legal challenge. Interpol would later issue an international arrest warrant for dos Santos at the request of the Attorney General of the Republic of Angola.
The seizure of do Nascimento and dos Santos’ stakes left Unitel entirely nationalised, with the government already holding the remaining 50% of the business via Group Sonangol, a state-owned utility company.
But the government had no intention of keeping hold of the stakes long-term, saying in 2019 that it would look to sell at least part of its reclaimed stake in the business via a public tender process.
The size of the stake for sale and the price tag attached have not yet been hinted, but the comments in the media suggest the stake sale could soon be underway.