Bank in East Timor gives Geocapital almost total presence in financial sector of Portuguese-speaking countries

26 July 2010

Macau, China, 26 July – Geocapital, the stakeholding company linked to Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho, is about to start operating in East Timor, thus having a presence in almost all the financial markets of Portuguese-speaking countries.

The new bank, Banco Timorense de Investimento, which Geocapital had already requested to open, is due to receive authorisation, according to a report last week from the Africa Monitor newsletter.

The new bank will prioritise financing for infrastructure projects, Africa Monitor said.”

“Thus, [Geocapital’s] plan to set itself up in the financial sector of all the Portuguese-speaking countries is practically complete,” the publication said.

Sao Tome and Principe, a country with which China has no diplomatic relations, but where some Chinese companies operate, is the exception.

Africa Monitor also said that, in the initial stage of the new Timorese bank, Geocapital would almost entirely control it, but in the future local shareholders were likely to come on board.

Speaking recently, Diogo Lacerda Machado, a member of Geocapital’s board of directors, estimated that an investment of between 4 and 6 million euros would be needed to set up the Timorese bank.

East Timor currently has three retail banks: Portugal’s Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Indonesia’s Mandiri Bank and Australia-New Zealand bank ANZ.

With starting capital of around 10 million euros, Geocapital’smain shareholders are Stanley Ho and Portuguese businessman Jorge Ferro Ribeiro.

Geocapital is a project that began with the political/strategic concept of Macau as a “privileged platform” in relation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries, according to chief executive Jorge Ferro Ribeiro.

In an initial phase, it is investing in the banking sector in all Portuguese-speaking countries in order to have “institutional positioning in those countries,” and also “privileged knowledge of the business and economic reality of the countries,” he said.

According to Ferro Ribeiro Geocapital also planned to boost its presence in Macau.

Geocapital is also present in the financial sector in Mozambique (Moza Banco), Guinea Bissau (Banco da África Ocidental) and Angola.

At the end of 2008, a partnership was announced between Geocapital and Angolan state oil company Sonangol – Geopactum, as part of which Ho and Ferro Ribeiro took a stake in Banco Privado Atlântico (BPA).

This partnership has implications in the management of Portugal’s biggest private bank, Millennium bcp, as Sonangol has a 10 percent stake in the bank and Ho has around 3 percent, making it the main power within the board of directors.

At the end of last year, Geocapital became the largest private shareholder in Cape Verdean bank Caixa Económica de Cabo Verde (CECV), on acquiring 27.41 percent of the bank from Portuguese mutual group Caixa Económica Montepio Geral.

In May of last year the government of Cape Verde and Geocapital signed an agreement to create and International Centre for Scientific and Technological Development Research into biofuels.

After the financial sector and renewable energy, infrastructures are likely to be the next focus of investment, according to the group. (macauhub)

MACAUHUB FRENCH