Exclusive: Isabel dos Santos pledges transparency, efficiency at Angolan state oil giant

Thu Jun 9, 2016 2:13pm EDT
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By Ed Cropley

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angolan state energy giant Sonangol is spinning off non-core investments in areas such as banking and real estate into a separate fund to allow it to focus exclusively on oil, new CEO Isabel dos Santos said on Thursday.

In her first interview since being appointed last week, the daughter of Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos also pledged to bring openness and efficiency to the 40-year-old company that is frequently criticized as opaque and unwieldy.

"We're very committed to transparency. We're very committed to improving our profits at Sonangol and to improving our organization," she told Reuters in the staff canteen at the company's swish headquarters in central Luanda.

The 43-year-old, a major investor in various Angolan and Portuguese telecoms, banking, media and energy companies, is ranked as Africa's richest woman by Forbes magazine.

Dos Santos dismissed suggestions that it was her family connections rather than business acumen that led to her appointment last week after the surprise dismissal of the Sonangol board.

Some analysts have seen the move as a sign of President dos Santos -- Angola's ruler for the last 36 years -- putting close family members in charge of key pillars of the economy ahead of 2018, when he has said he intends to step down.

"It's not because of politics," the Sonangol chief executive said of her appointment. "I was brought into this project because of my experience from the private business sector."

She also confirmed that Sonangol would be split into three units, one overseeing its oil operations, another logistics and the third handling the management of concessions to international energy companies.   Continued...

Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, speaks to journalists before being sworn in as chief executive of state oil firm Sonangol in Luanda, Angola, June 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Ed Cropley