By: CHRIS GRAEME
THE ANGOLAN government has flatly denied that it has ordered state companies and institutions to close their accounts with Banco de Formento de Angola.
Last week investors and bankers were in a state of panic after the Angolan government, headed by José Eduardo dos Santos, had allegedly given instructions to public entities to close their bank accounts with the Angolan bank whose capital is controlled totally by the Banco Português de Investimento (BPI) currently examining a merger with Portugal’s biggest private bank Millennium bcp.
The Angolan government’s apparent decision, taken a week ago on Friday, came in the wake of alleged Angolan pressure being brought to bear on banks dominated by Portuguese investors to open up their capital to Angolan shareholders.
The direct cause for the cut in relations however, was rumoured to be BFA’s decision to reject a business proposal to buy bonds in Angola’s public debt to the tune of 3.5 billion dollars.
Luanda and BPI had maintained close contacts for several years with a view to opening up BFA to private Angolan investors and clients.
Also on the table was a proposal to sell 40 per cent of the Portuguese controlled bank’s capital to Angolan partners.
The government headed by José Eduardo Santos is apparently trying to “break” Portugal’s strong and dominant presence in the Angolan financial sector, imposing restrictive new rules for Portuguese financial entities wishing to continue business operations in the country, these being the creation of capital associations with Angolan investors and partners.
The Angolan government’s offensive against BFA comes at a time when the Bank of Portugal (BoP) had just given authorisation to BIC Português, an Angolan financial institution owned by Américo Amorim, Fernando Telles and Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan President’s daughter, permission to operate in the Portuguese market.
One of the Angolan companies likely to benefit from the Bank of Portugal’s decision is Sonangol, one of the largest in the country, which is also an investor in Millennium bcp where it holds a five per cent capital stake.
Sonangol, a petrol and gas company, is responsible for 57 per cent of Angola’s GDP and is likely to be involved, as a capital shareholder, in the negotiations over the proposed merger between BPI and Millennium bcp.
Additionally both BCP and Sonangol have a joint financial agreement to operate within the African market.
Contacted by various press organizations in Portugal both BPI and BFA declined to comment over the row.
However, an Angolan government spokesman said that it ‘did not have a policy of interfering in business relations between banks and clients.’
“Anything that would put the sound management of a financial institution at risk would worry us. Equally worrying for us would be if a bank concentrated its credits in the hands of only one client,” said the spokesperson though the Jornal de Angola.
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