World News

Billionaire dos Santos’ suitability as shareholder in question after asset freeze: Bank of Portugal

By Victoria Waldersee

LISBON (Reuters) – The Bank of Portugal is evaluating Angolan billionaire businesswoman Isabel dos Santos’ suitability as a shareholder of Portuguese banks, it told Reuters on Thursday, after an Angolan court ordered that her assets in the country be frozen earlier this week.

A Luandan court document dated Dec. 23 ordered an asset freeze of the personal bank accounts of dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo and Mario da Silva in Angola as well as stakes they hold in nine Angolan firms after the government accused them of causing the state losses of over $1 billion.

Dos Santos and her husband have denied the allegations, calling them “politically motivated”. Da Silva, chairman of Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA), has not publicly commented.

Dos Santos holds significant stakes in several important Portuguese firms, including a 42.5% stake in Eurobic bank and shares in telecoms company NOS <NOS.LS>, and engineering company Efacec.

She is also a stakeholder in oil and gas company Galp Energia <GALP.LS>, whose largest shareholder Amorim Group is partly owned by a holding company jointly controlled by Angolan state oil company Sonangol and a firm called Exem Energy, of which dos Santos, Dokolo and da Silva are beneficiaries.

In an email to Reuters, the Bank of Portugal said it is “considering all the newly available information which could be relevant for the evaluation of her suitability as a shareholder of the institutions we supervise.”

Dos Santos is not on the board of any entity subject to their supervision but holds 42.5% of Eurobic bank. She does not currently hold shares in any other Portuguese banks.

Portugal’s market regulator CMVM also said they are “following the implications of the court’s decision” in relation to possible consequences for the companies in which dos Santos holds shares.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Victoria Waldersee in Lisbon; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)