7. State-Owned Enterprises
In Angola, certain SOEs exercise delegated governmental powers, especially in the mining sector where the government is the sole concessionaire. Foreign investors may sometimes find demands made by SOEs excessive, and under such conditions, SOEs have easier access to credit and government contracts. There is no law mandating preferential treatment to SOEs, but in practice they have access to inside information and credit. Currently, SOEs are not subject to budgetary constraints and quite often exceed their capital limits.
SOEs, often benefitting from a government mandate, operate mostly in the extractive; transportation; commerce; banking; and construction, building, and heavy equipment sectors. All SOEs in Angola are required to have boards of directors, and most board members are affiliated with the government. SOEs are not explicitly required to consult with government officials before making decisions. By law, SOEs must publish annual financial reports for the previous year in the national daily newspaper Jornal de Angola by April 1. Such reports are not always subject to publicly released external audits (though the audit of state oil firm Sonangol is publicly released). The standards used are often questioned. Not all SOEs fulfill their legal obligations, and few are sanctioned.
Angola’s supreme audit institution, Tribunal de Contas, is responsible for auditing SOEs. However, reports from the Tribunal de Contas are only made public after a few years. The most recently published report, for 2017, was published in 2019. Angola’s fiscal transparency would be improved by ensuring its supreme audit institution’s audits of SOEs and the government’s annual financial accounts are made public within a reasonable period. Publicly available audit reports would also improve the transparency of contracts between private companies and SOEs.
In November 2016, the Angolan Government revised Law 1/14 “Legal Regime on Issuance and Management of Direct and Indirect Debt,” which now differentiates between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ public debt. The GRA considers SOE debt as indirect public debt, and only accounts in its state budget for direct government debt, thus effectively not reflecting some substantial obligations in fact owed by the government. President Lourenço has launched various reforms to improve financial sector transparency, enhance efficiency in the country’s SOEs as part of the National Development plan 2018-2022 and Macroeconomic Stability Plan. The strategy included the prospective privatization of 195 SOE assets that are deemed not profitable to the state. The privatization will possibly include the restructuring of the national air carrier TAAG, as well as Sonangol and its subsidiaries. The latter intends to sell off its non-core businesses as part of its restructuring strategy to make the parastatal more efficient.
Angola is not a party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Angola does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate governance for SOEs.
In 2020 the GRA increased the number of assets to be privatized by 2022 from 90 to 195 through the Angola Debt and Securities Exchange market (BODIVA) and under the supervision of the Institute of Management of Assets and State Holdings (IGAPE). The privatization program “PROPRIV,” implements the Government’s Interim Macroeconomic Stabilization Program (PEM), which aims to rid the government of unprofitable public institutions. The GRA plans to privatize part of state-owned Angola Telecommunications Company, companies in the oil and energy sector, as well as several textile and beverages industries. The GRA has stated that the privatization process will be open to interested foreign investors and has guaranteed a transparent bidding process. The tenders are open to local and foreign investors. In 2020 PROPRIV helped the government raise over USD 500 million through the privatization of 33 assets following public tenders.
The oil company Sonangol, the State’s largest SOE, sold 14 of the 20 companies it planned to privatize in 2019. It also sold 19 out of 26 planned to be sold in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed privatization efforts, and the rest of the total 70 assets to be privatized will likely be sold in 2021 and 2022. The list includes divestments in the subsidiaries and assets of Sonangol Cabo Verde – Sociedade e Investimentos and Óleos de São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as stakes in Founton (Gibraltar), Sonatide Marine (Cayman Islands), Solo Properties Knightbridge (United Kingdom), Societé Ivoiriense de Raffinage (Cote d’Ivoire), Puma Energy Holdings (Singapore) and Sonandiets Services (Panama), by 2021.
Sonangol will sell its stake in WTA-Houston Express and French company WTA, as well as assets in Portuguese real estate companies Puaça, Diraniproject III and Diraniproject V, in Sonacergy – Serviços e Construções, Sonafurt International Shipping and Atlantis Viagens e Turismo. Sonangol also holds assets to be privatized in Angolan companies in the Health, Education, Transport, Telecommunications, Energy, Civil Construction, Mineral Resources and Oil and Banking sectors.
The sale of more than 60 non-core assets will make the company “financially more robust,” and allow it to focus on its core business.