Sonangol on the Brink

Putting the President’s daughter in charge of Angola’s national oil company has been such a ‘good move’ that the company is now reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy. The ‘genius’ businesswoman and her cabal of Portuguese consultants have succeeded only in a level of mismanagement greater than ever before. And so it has come to pass that the state monopoly that controls Angola’s main source of income is now reduced to the role of beggar. Maka Angola is reliably informed that on May 17 Isabel dos Santos went to see the Finance Minister, Archer Mangueira, to request an injection of three billion dollars (!!) to rescue Sonangol from imminent bankruptcy. A source close to the Portuguese consultancy firm which has been the de facto administrator of Sonangol on behalf of Isabel dos Santos, told Maka Angola that the Minister had to inform the President of the Sonangol Board […]

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Isabel dos Santos and the Right of Reply

Isabel dos Santos, self-described ‘African billionaire businesswoman’ and head of the Angolan national oil company, Sonangol, (appointed by her father, the President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos) was clearly rattled by the report published here on Maka Angola last week, entitled ‘Sonangol’s Slush Fund Salaries’ and has sent an official response. Maka Angola is delighted to afford the Sonangol President the right of reply. Sonangol’s ‘Official Reaction’ states (without offering proof) that the report was incorrect. And yet, instead of supplying alternative data, the response serves to confirm the inside information supplied to Maka Angola. (1) Sonangol’s whistleblowers reported elevated salaries for the board. And outrageous expenses and consultancy fees for a cabal of Portuguese nationals, effected overseas to avoid paying Angolan tax. The President’s daughter confirms that fees for the board of directors were raised to keep pace with inflation – in effect at the very least a […]

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Sonangol’s Slush-Fund Salary Payments

Concerns over the mal-administration of the Angolan oil giant, Sonangol, continue to multiply, as the country’s prime source of foreign income haemorrhages millions of dollars on foreign (mainly Portuguese) ‘consultants’ close to the President’s daughter while defaulting on essential payments. Isabel dos Santos, appointed by her father to run Sonangol last June, maintains the PR fiction that her objectives are to “raise transparency” and “improve management practise” at the state-owned petroleum giant. Why then does the lady who likes to call herself “Africa’s first female billionaire” insist on secrecy over the remuneration of her board and the more than 60 Portuguese consultants she has hired? And why are these foreign consultants working inside Angola on tourist visas? Insiders say Isabel’s board and administration are not paid according to the agreed salary scale at Sonangol and so are not on the official payroll. Instead, their elevated payments come directly from a […]

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Sonangol’s Billion-Dollar Headache

Evidence has reached Maka Angola that Sonangol’s debts to major oil corporations are far in excess of the US $300 million  owed to Chevron as reported last month. Faced with a Sonangol news release that noted the Chevron monies were “under review” prior to payment, other foreign creditors have grown anxious about the multi-million sums they too are owed. Maka Angola has been supplied with figures showing unpaid cash calls to three other oil majors operating in the Angolan oilfields. They reveal that as of October 2016, Sonangol owed its creditors at over one billion US dollars. To date, Sonangol has only effected payments to companies owned by associates of President José Eduardo dos Santos and his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, the current Sonangol President. President dos Santos sacked the previous Sonangol board and installed his daughter back in June, in a move that shocked the global oil industry given […]

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Angola’s Greatest Work of Fiction: The Budget

A much-lauded cartoon by Angola’s premier pictorial satirist Sérgio Piçarra recently depicted the state of the country’s economy, thanks to José Eduardo dos Santos, the country’s President for the past 37 years. In his depiction, Angola has a ‘Real Economy’, and a ‘Virtual Economy’, but there is an even third one, the ‘Fictitious Economy’. It’s a reflection of a truth: every year the Angolan state budget (Orçamento Geral de Estado) is a mixture of the actual (real), anticipated (virtual) and the ‘only on paper’ (fictitious) spending for the year ahead. Now insiders say the 2017 Budget strays even further from reality than usual. One example: Angola expects to spend more than 1.7 billion kwanzas (US $6.5 million) on maintenance of the memorial to Agostinho Neto, the country’s first post-independence president. The Soviet Union undertook the initial construction of the memorial. However, with the collapse of the USSR, the construction remained […]

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Isabel Spells Danger for Angolan Banks

When the United States warns of the risks of handing control of Angola’s banks to politically exposed people (i.e. President José Eduardo dos Santos, his family members, and the Generals who back him), this is not an idle warning. It’s because the USA know the President is planning to transfer control over the BFA (Banco de Fomento Angola) to his daughter, Isabel, and that once he does so, the Presidential group’s control over almost the entire Angolan banking system will be in place. How so? According to African Business Magazine’s list of Africa’s Top 100 Banks in 2015, the five largest banks in Angola were: Banco Económico (BE – Economic Bank), Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI – Angolan Investment Bank), Banco de Poupança e Crédito (The Savings and Credit Bank), Banco de Fomento de Angola (BFA – Development Bank of Angola) and Banco BIC (BIC – The International Credit Bank). […]

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Sonangol “Can’t Even Afford Toilet Paper”

Employees at the Angolan oil giant have flushed out some startling news about Sonangol’s continued decline. Since President José Eduardo dos Santos put his daughter, Isabel (Africa’s first female billionaire), in charge the oil giant’s fortunes “are in the toilet”. At the company’s headquarters, in a custom luxury US $400 million  building, in which over-invoicing reached hallucinatory levels, officials are confronted with a stark reality. Apparently, Angola’s most important enterprise can’t afford to supply its own washrooms. “Every worker has to bring their own toilet paper from home because Sonangol has been unable to pay its suppliers and we have a toilet paper crisis,” one official resignedly told Maka Angola. Staff fear they’ll become the butt of jokes. They say the situation is out of hand. Only the denizens of the 18th, 19th and 20th floors – where Isabel and her coterie of expatriate ‘consultants’ have their dens – are […]

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Oil & Money: Sonangol’s Extravagant Conference in London

Some of the most powerful players in the global oil and gas industry will be meeting in London on October 18-19, for the Oil & Money annual conference. Hosted jointly by the New York Times and Energy Intelligence, the conference is described as a “must attend” – a gathering of “over 450 of the most influential senior decision-makers from the industry, along with government ministers and representatives, financiers and bankers, consultants and legal experts.” The conference agenda boasts of hours of “effective network opportunities…in a crowd large enough to be powerful, small enough to be intimate.” Tickets for the conference cost £2,490 (544,000 Kz), not including attendance at the Petroleum Executive of the Year Dinner which will set you back an extra £525 (115,000 Kz). Who are the sponsors of this lavish affair? The list of donors includes big-hitters like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical but also a host of […]

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The Chevron Ultimatum: Sonangol Has One Week to Save Itself

New management at the Angolan National Oil Company Sonangol has engineered a situation which now threatens the very survival of the company. Since June this year, when Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos installed his daughter Isabel dos Santos to chair the board, Sonangol has repeatedly failed to honour its promises to pay some US $300 million owed to the US multinational oil giant Chevron. The sum relates to production costs for the lucrative Block 0 in Angola’s offshore oilfields, which is 40 percent owned by Sonangol and 39.2 percent owned by Chevron. Sources in Houston have told Maka Angola that the US company has exhausted all options for finding an amicable solution, with no reciprocity from Isabel dos Santos’s board. The result is that Chevron Angola’s Director-General John Baltz has now given the Sonangol board an ultimatum: they have one week to come up with a payment plan or […]

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Angolan Oil Greases a Trio of Palms

At a time of prolonged economic crisis, Angola has an interesting way of prioritizing who gets first dibs on its dwindling supply of foreign exchange. Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos recently told the central committee of his ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party that the government had not received any contribution from Sonangol (the national oil company) since the beginning of the year due to the sharp decline in oil price. He added: “the income Sonangol does derive is barely enough to pay its own and the State debts.” Dos Santos admitted that this was causing a foreign exchange crisis for the National Bank of Angola, the BNA, which was only able to muster approximately US $300 million per month. That comes from receivables from foreign oil companies working in Angola, who are required to exchange their national currencies into Angolan kwanzas to pay in-country […]

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