Business deals in 2013 narrow ties between Lisbon, Luanda, São Paulo and Macau

30 December 2013

Lisbon, Luanda, São Paulo and other Portuguese-speaking cities along with Macau were the settings for major business deals in 2013, further tightening relations in the Sino-Portuguese economic and business space.

After the much publicised entry of Chinese companies in Portugal in 2011 and 2012, notably China Three Gorges in EDP-Energias de Portugal, this year saw Portugal Telecom and Brazil’s Oi involved in what was deemed one of the world’s 12 biggest deals.

Announced in October and still being finalised, that deal is estimated at US$14.3 billion overall, indicates a preliminary analysis by the Dealogic consultancy.

The merger is unanimously considered the deal of the year in Portugal and is held to be the third most expensive deal between companies from different countries and the third biggest operation targeting a European company.

Market analysts say that the next step will be the entry of an international partner, noting the interest of Chinese operators.

In Portugal, telecommunications also witnessed a deal with international impact that promises to shake up the market in Portuguese language countries: the merger between Zon and Optimus, which will have Angolan entrepreneur Isabel dos Santos as shareholder.

Zon already operates in satellite TV in Angola and Mozambique (ZAP) in partnership with dos Santos, who has been rapidly expanding the mobile communications operator Unitel (in which she holds 25 percent of the capital) in the Portuguese language countries, particularly in São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde.

Dos Santos has stated that beyond strengthening the new operator’s position vis-à-vis its main competitor, Portugal Telecom, the merger between Zon and Optimus will enable expansion outside Portugal.

The new company has revenues of 1.6 billion euros, 28 percent of the Portuguese market, and aims to expand in Africa to rival South Africa’s MTN and Portugal Telecom, which holds a further 25 percent of Unitel, besides a presence in São Tomé and Cape Verde.

The newspaper Jornal de Negócios considers Isabel dos Santos the sixth most powerful person in the Portuguese economy. She is also finalising a partnership in the distribution area with the Portugal’s Sonae group, owner of the Continente hypermarket chain.

That daily has called the merger between Zon and Optimus the “icing on the cake” of its business growth in Portugal, which includes a stake in the Portuguese bank BPI worth an estimated 465 million euros and 25 percent of BIC Portugal.

Another Angolan “dealing cards” in Portuguese business in 2013 was António Mosquito, who entered the news media business of the Controlinveste group (Diário de Notícias and Jornal de Notícias newspapers and TSF radio, among others) with a 27.5 percent stake.

From China through Portugal came new projects involving China Three Gorges and EDP in Brazil and Africa, as well as renewable energies in Europe and more than 300 million euros of private investment, mainly in property.

The private property investment occurs under the Portuguese government’s golden visa programme, which offers a residence permit to individuals who invest 500,000 euros to purchase property.

In bilateral relations, the high point in the Chinese/Portuguese space was the 4th Forum Macau Ministerial Conference, which ended with new measures and targets, among them the aim to achieve trade amounting to US$160 billion by 2016.

Measures announced at the end of that gathering include the creation of a solar energy project for public lighting and the implementation of economic and commercial cooperation zones in the Portuguese-speaking African countries, “encouraging Chinese companies based on the principles of making own operational decisions”.

At the ministerial conference the Angolan Minister for Justice and Human Rights, Rui Mangueira, spoke of “very ambitious targets” and a “very innovative plan”.

The year’s end has been marked by the signing of an economic and technical cooperation agreement between Angola and China, stemming from non-reimbursable Chinese assistance worth 200 million yuan, to rebuild and equip the Luanda General Hospital.

That agreement was signed in Luanda by the Angolan State Secretary of Foreign Relations for Cooperation, Ângela Bragança, and Chinese Ambassador Gao Kexiang, who said the donation included the construction of a primary school in Huambo province and an agricultural centre in Luanda.

Bragança revealed that the Chinese side had confirmed support for construction of the Institute for International Relations, among other actions framed by the Forum Macau initiative. (macauhub)