Portugal Telecom negotiates sale of mobile operator Unitel with Angolan government

7 July 2006

Lisbon, Portugal, 07 July – Shareholders of Angolan mobile phone operator Unitel want Portugal Telecom (PT) to sell its 25 percent stake in the company, which is Angola’s largest operator and is considered to be the focus of PT’s expansion in Africa.

According to Portuguese financial daily, Jornal de Negócios, the Angolan company recently turned down a request by PT to increase its stake in Unitel to 50 percent, as had been outlined in the agreement between the companies, and instead started to negotiate a sale by the Portuguese company.

Portugal Telecom declined to comment on the subject.

Unitel was considered to be, “a fundamental focus for the PT Group’s international expansion,” by former director for international business, Carlos Vasconcellos Cruz, who recently left the operator.

The paper also added that the project to set up a PT operating center in Angola would likely now be launched in South Africa.

Unitel would be the second case this year in which a Portuguese company sold its stake in an Angolan subsidiary at the government’s request, after Cimpor, which recently sold its stake in Nova Cimangola, the country’s largest cement company.

Unitel, which recently overtook Angola Telecom as the largest mobile carrier in the country, was set up in 2000, via a partnership between PT and Angolan investors.

The two companies are currently involved in consortia, led by PT, with the aim of expanding into regional markets, particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Namibia.

In 2004, the latest figures available, sales at Unitel more than doubled to US$245 million driven by exponential growth of its customer base.

Unitel currently provides voice and data services to around 1.4 million customers, a number three-fold that of 2004. (macauhub)