Angola’s Sonangol on course to be among three biggest shareholders in Portugal’s BCP bank

11 June 2007

Lisbon, Portugal, 11 June – Angolan state oil company Sonangol in on the road to becoming one of the main shareholders in Millennium BCP, the biggest private financial group in Portugal, which has an ambitious growth strategy in Angola, media have reported.

Following the acquisition last week by Sonangol of a 2 percent stake in Millennium BCP involving investment of around US$ 250 million, Portuguese weekly newspaper Sol reported on Saturday that Sonangol’s next goal is to raise its stake in the group to 5 percent.

This buy-in would make Sonangol the third major shareholder in the Portuguese financial group after insurance company Eureko and BPI, one of the main national rivals of Millennium BCP and owner of Banco Fomento, Angola’s largest private bank.

Sonangol’s boosted shareholding in BCP would also exceed those of traditional partners in the group like Teixeira Duarte and José de Mello, as well as major financial sector investors such as JP Morgan of the United States and Fortis of Belgium.

According to Sol, Sonangol’s raised participation in BCP will take place in the coming months and, according to financial sector analysts, will take the domestic “battle” between BCP and BPI to Angola’s banking sector, which saw the former attempt to acquire the latter last year.

Considered as Angola’s most influential company, Sonangol will join forces with Millennium BCP in the project to expand Angola’s economy, acquiring around a third of the capital of the bank’s Angolan branch, Sol reported.

BCP’s strategy for growth in Angola was put on hold during its IPO launched on BPI, but once the operation was concluded the road was considered open for its implementation.

Millennium Angola was officially inaugurated in April 2006 during the official visit to Luanda of Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates.

The Portuguese financial group, which already has a strong presence in Poland and Greece, has earmarked Angola for another major overseas expansion project over the next three years. The bank expects to have 40 branches in the African state by 2010.

Sonangol, along with the Amorim group, is one of the main shareholders in Portuguese oil company Galp and gave strong support to Millennium BCP executive-chairman Paulo Teixeira Pinto during a recent rift within the group’s board.

For Luísa Bessa, assistant-director of the Jornal de Negócios business newspaper, Sonangol has been a key ally to BCP’s chairman in prominent board disputes this year.

Bessa added that Sonangol is heading to become the largest shareholder of BCP after Americo Amorim, the main founder of the group, who left the bank in 1993 after running disagreements with Jardim Gonçalves, the former chairman who emerged to challenge Teixeira Pinto.

“Sonangol’s entry could just represent the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two firms. Or it could be the taking of the stake held by Americo Amorim, who, despite investing in Galp, is in a position to continue alone,” according to Bessa.

Sonangol posted operating profits of nearly US$ 1 billion last year and recently announced it would float on the New York and Johannesburg stock exchanges from 2010. (macauhub)