6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
There is a visible effort by the government to create more attractive conditions for foreign investment as reflected in the attempt to create a more favorable social and political climate, the new legislation on private investment and in a greater liberalization of capital movements. The dangers of absorption by the local partner or the impossibility of transferring profits are thus mitigated. The BNA abolished the licensing previously required on importing capital from foreign investors allocated to the private sector and exporting income associated with such investments. This measure compliments the need to improve the capture of FDI and portfolio investment and it is in line with the privatization program for public companies (PROPRIV) announced through Presidential Decree No. 250/19 of August 5, 2019 which encourages foreign companies to participate. In addition to the operations, BNA is also exempt from licensing, the export of capital resulting from the sale of investments in securities traded on a regulated market and the sale of any investment, in which the buyer is also not – foreign exchange resident, pursuant to Notice No. 15/2019.
BODIVA is Angola’s Debt and Securities Stock Exchange. The Stock Exchange (BODIVA) allows through a platform the trading of different types of financial instruments available to investors with rules (self-regulation), systems (platforms) and procedures that assure market fairness and integrity to facilitate portfolio investment. However, there is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment which is poorly explored. At the moment, only local commercial banks have the ability to potentially list on the nascent stock exchange.
The central bank (BNA) partially observes IMF Article VIII on refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Foreign exchange crises and the loss of correspondent banking relationships since 2015 have prompted the BNA to adopt restrictive monetary policies that negatively affect Angola’s payment system, seen in the delay in foreign exchange denominated international transfers.
Credit is not allocated on market terms. Foreign investors do not normally access credit locally. For Angolan investors, credit access is very limited, and if available, comes with a collateral requirement of 125 percent, so most either self-finance, or seek financing from non-Angolan banks and investment funds such as the “Angola Invest” government-subsidized funding program for micro, small and medium private enterprises (SMEs). The fund, sourced from the Annual State Budget, ended on September 25, 2018, further reducing funding opportunities for many SMEs. Banks credit issue appetite also lies more on government than the private sector as credit to government is more profitable for these commercial banks.
Money and Banking System
Angola is over-banked. Although four banks have been closed since 2018, 26 banks still operate in Angola. The top seven banks control nearly 80% of sector deposits, but the rest of the sector includes a large number of banks with minimal scale and weak franchises. 47% of income-earners utilize banking services, with 80% being from the urban areas. Angolan banks focus on profit generating activities including transactional banking, short-term trade financing, foreign exchange, and investments in high-interest government bonds.
The banking sector largely depends on monetary policies established by Angola’s central bank, the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA). Thanks to the ongoing IMF economic and financial reform agenda, the BNA is adopting international best practices and slowly becoming autonomous. On February 13, 2021 President Joao Lourenco issued an edict granting autonomy to the BNA, a decision taken after IMF recommendations. The reforms taken under the Lourenco administration have lessened the political influence over the BNA and allowed it to more freely adopt strategies to build resilience from external shocks on the economy. As Angola’s economy depends heavily on oil to fuel its economy, so does the banking sector. The BNA periodically monitors minimum capital requirements for all banks and orders the closure of non-compliant banks.
Although the RECREDIT Agency purchased non-performing loans (NPLs) of the state’s parastatal BPC bank, NPLs remain high at 32%, a decrease of 5% since 2016. Credit availability is minimal and often supports government-supported programs. The GRA obliged banks to grant credit more liberally in the economy, notably by implementing a Credit Support Program (PAC). For instance, the BNA has issued a notice obliging Angolan commercial banks to grant credit to national production in the minimum amount equivalent to 2.5% of their net assets until the end of 2020.
The country has not lost any additional correspondent banking relationships since 2015. The BNA is currently working on reforms to convince international banks to reestablish correspondent banking relationships. The majority of transactions go via third party correspondent banking services in Portugal banks, a costly option for all commercial banks. At the time of issuing this report no correspondent banking relationships were at jeopardy.
Foreign banking institutions are allowed to operate in Angola and are subject to BNA oversight.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the BNA met in March 2020, to consider recent changes to the main economic indicators, and taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the domestic economy. The MPC paid particular attention to the external accounts, and their implications for the conduct of monetary and exchange rate policies. The MPC has accordingly decided to:
- Maintain the base interest rate, BNA rate, at 15.5%;
- Maintain the interest rate on the liquidity absorption facility with an overnight maturity, at 0%;
- Reduce the interest rate on the liquidity absorption facility with a seven-day maturity, from 10% to 7%;
- Maintain reserve requirement coefficients for national and foreign currencies at 22% and 15%, respectively;
- Establish a liquidity facility with a maximum value of Kz 100 billion for the acquisition of government securities held by non-financial corporations:
- Extend to the 54 products defined in PRODESI the credit granted with recourse to the reserve requirements, and establish a minimum number of loans to be granted per bank;
- Exempt from the limits established per type of payment instrument, the import of products included in the basic food basket, and of and these continue to cripple lending appetite of commercial banks to the private sector medicines;
- Set April 1 as the start date for the use of the Bloomberg platform by the oil companies and by the National Agency of Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, for the sale of foreign currency to commercial banks.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The Angolan National Bank (Banco Nacional de Angola –BNA) published Notice no. 15/2019, of December 30, 2019, which establishes the rules and procedures applicable to foreign exchange operations conducted by non-resident entities related to: (a) foreign direct investment; (b) investment in securities (portfolio investment); (c) divestment operations; and (d) income earned by non-residents from direct investment or portfolio investment (the “Notice”). The notice also applies to all foreign exchange transactions relating to “foreign investment projects that were registered with BNA prior to its publication.” Investments made by non-resident foreign exchange entities in the oil sector are excluded from the scope of the Notice.
The notice distinguishes foreign direct investment and portfolio investment. Direct investment is investment made in the “creation of new companies or other legal entities” or through the acquisition of shareholdings in non-listed Angolan companies or, if listed in a regulated market when the investment gives the external investor a right of control equal to 10% or more. In turn, portfolio investment represents the investment in securities. In the case of the purchase of securities representing the capital of a listed company, portfolio investment will be considered only when the voting rights associated with the investment are less than 10% of the listed company’s capital stock.
Since dropping the peg on the dollar in 2018, the local currency fluctuates freely. In October 2019, the BNA fully liberalized the foreign exchange regime, abandoning the trading band that had been in place since January 2018. Its previous policy of controlled exchange rate adjustment prevented the kwanza from depreciating by more than 2.0% at currency auctions. The BNA also has allowed oil companies to directly sell foreign currency to commercial banks. The BNA said the move is expected to normalize the foreign exchange market through the reduction of its direct intervention with oil firms, increase the number of foreign currency suppliers, and revive the country’s foreign exchange market. The exchange rate is determined by the rate on the day of sale of forex to commercial banks. On June 22, 2020, the BNA adopted Bloomberg’s foreign exchange electronic trading system (FXGO) and its electronic auction system to bring greater efficiency and transparency to Angola’s forex market.
Based on the notice issued on December 23, 2019 as per above, as long as adequate supporting documentation is submitted to the commercial bank, foreign investors can freely transfer within 5 days abroad:
- dividends, interest and other income resulting from their investments;
- shareholder loan repayments;
- proceeds of the sale of securities listed on the stock exchange;
- when the participated entity is not listed on the stock exchange, the proceeds of the sale, when the purchaser is also a foreign investor and the amount to be transferred abroad by the seller is equal to the amount to be transferred from abroad by the purchaser, in foreign currency;
The transfer abroad of capital, requiring the purchase of foreign currency, when the participated entity is not listed on the stock exchange, requires prior exchange control approval when it relates to the following:
- The sale of the whole or a part of an investment;
- The dissolution of the participated entity;
- Any other corporate action that would reduce the capital of the participated entity.
There may be delays greater than 60 days if the documentation submitted to the BNA is not complete such as a tax due statement from the General Tax Agency and companies’ balance sheet statements.
The BNA has facilitated remittances of international supplies by introducing payment by letters of credit. Also, the 2018 NPIL grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all taxes due. The government continues to prioritize foreign exchange for essential goods and services including the food, health, defense, and petroleum industries.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
In October 2012, former President Eduardo dos Santos established a petroleum funded USD 5 billion sovereign wealth fund called the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA). The FSDEA was established in accordance with international governance standards and best practices as outlined in the Santiago Principles.
In February 2015, the FSDEA was recognized as transparent by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The FSDEA has the express purpose of profit maximization with a special emphasis on investing in domestic projects that have a social component ( http://www.fundosoberano.ao/investments/ ). Jose Filomeno dos Santos (Zenu), son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed chairman of FSDEA in June 2013, but was removed by President Lourenco in 2017, and is appealing a five-year jail term pronounced in August 2020, following his trial for money laundering, embezzlement and fraud. Former Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes was named new head of the FSDEA that same year.
Half of the initial endowment of FSDEA was invested in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and real estate in Angola and other African markets, and the other half was supposedly allocated to cash and fixed-income instruments, global and emerging-market equities, and other alternative investments. The FSDEA is in possession of approximately USD 3.35 billion of its private equity assets previously under the control of QG and given to economic and financial hardship, the fund’s equity was reduced by USD 2 billion to finance the Program for Intervention in the Municipalities in 2019 and USD 1.5 billion for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The FSDEA also announced that the government will use the remainder, USD 1.5 billion of the fund’s assets to support social programs on condition of future repayment through increased tax on the BNA’s rolling debts.