Macau business magnate Stanley Ho has eyes on Guinea Bissau

21 May 2007

Bissau, Guinea Bissau, 21 May – After Lisbon, Luanda, Maputo and Praia, the capital of Guinea Bissau, Bissau could be the next step for Macau businessman Stanley Ho and his holding company Geocapital, created in order to invest in Portuguese-speaking countries.

The “king” of Macau and Lisbon’s gaming sector is focused on Caravela Island, in the Bijagós archipelago, which is considered by UNESCO to be an Ecological Biospheric Reserve, where Ho wants to set up a tourist resort with a casino, according to the Africa Monitor newsletter.

The promotion of this resort, Africa Monitor reported, was one of the main reasons for a recent visit to Bissau by Ho’s lawyer and business partner Almeida Santos.

During his visit to the Guinean capital, Santos was received by the country’s president, Nino Vieira, and by its new prime minister, Martinho Cabi.

The Portuguese lawyer and businessman has Mozambique as one of his main and longest-standing interests, but according to Africa Monitor, he has a lonh-standing relationship with Nino Vieira.

Stanley Ho once presented a similar project in Cape Verde to that intended to be set up in Bijagós, including a hotel and casino, but it was not approved by the authorities who were unhappy about the chosen location – an islet near the capital of Praia.

Santos has also been actively involved in the Mozacapital projects in Mozambique, namely in the unsuccessful acquisition of a majority-stake in Mozambican bank, Banco de Desenvolvimento e Comércio (BDC).

The holding, which has interests in the Angolan financial sector, was close to completing the acquisition around a year ago, with the Mozambican press reporting that Santos had contacted Mozambican president, Armando Guebuza in order to get speedy approval for the deal.

After negotiations came to an end and Geocpital was ruled out, Portugal’s Montepio Geral acquired the stake, a deal which was concluded last week.

In Angola, Ho’s strategy for the financial sector seems to be to “start from scratch” by opening up a bank for the Chinese population, businesspeople and companies operating in the country – Banco Angolano de Negócios e Comércio (BANC).

The project for the bank included taking part in private sector investments, by granting loans or taking stakes, which is similar to the credit line set up by the Chinese government for Angola.

Sector observers consider that becoming part of the financial sector is a way of later taking part in sectors that require significant levels of investment, particularly infrastructure, real estate and energy.

The interest of Geocapital and its Mozambican associates in the energy sector has been apparent for some time as they have wanted to be involved in the privatization of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Dam (HCB), but so far nothing is known about the success of this move.

Santos had a central role in the creation of Mozacapital, in which Moçambique Capitais is associated to Geocapital, which is a vehicle for taking a stake in HCB, the largest hydroelectric project in the region, whose main customers are neighboring countries, particularly South Africa.

Mozacapital, as a shareholder of Mozacorp, alongside Geocapital and Mozambique’s Sogir, is a company that plans to invest directly in sectors such as mining, real estate, cotton and farming.

Before this process was underway Geocapital also signed a cooperation agreement for infrastructure and attracting Asian investment with the Office for Development Planning of the Zambeze Region.

The Zambeze valley is the richest region in Mozambique in terms of farming and power resources and is homes to the country’s most important coal mines, the concessions for which were granted to Brazilian mining giant Companhia do vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), as well as being the location of the Cahora Bassa dam. (macauhub)