Portuguese, Angolan leaders meet

2011-11-17 21:34

Luanda - Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho met with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on Thursday as the struggling former imperial power seeks investment from its booming ex-colony.

Passos Coelho, who arrived on Wednesday night on a visit of just over 24 hours, is looking to strengthen trade ties and discuss Angola's interest in buying shares in Portuguese state companies.

"We should take advantage of this moment of financial and economic crisis to strengthen our bilateral relations in the different sectors of our respective countries," he told AFP.

"Angola is in the middle of rebuilding its democratic institutions to establish its young democracy after many years of armed conflict," he said on leaving a meeting with the speaker of Angola's parliament, Antonio Paulo Kassoma.

Angola won its independence from Portugal in 1975, but descended into a 27-year civil war that ended only in 2002.

It has been rebuilding at breakneck speed in the nine years since, thanks largely to oil deposits that make it Africa's second-largest petroleum producer.

Its economy is set to grow 12%next year, while Portugal's is facing a 2.8% shrinkage.

That gloomy outlook has forced Portugal to sell off state companies under a €78bn International Monetary Fund bailout deal.

Outstanding debt

Air carrier TAP, utilities company Energias de Portugal, the failing Banco Portugues de Negocios, and national grid operator Redes Energeticas Nacionais are all on the block.

Dos Santos said Angola is ready to help its former colonial ruler, according to state news agency Angop.

"We're aware of the difficulties the Portuguese people have faced recently to end the crisis," he was quoted as saying after the pair met.

Passos Coelho lived in Luanda as a child, when his father was a colonial-era doctor.

He was later scheduled to address a meeting of Portuguese and Angolan business leaders on economic relations between the two countries and the Angolan government's outstanding debt to Portuguese construction firms.

Angola fell behind on payments to the companies when oil prices fell in 2009. It owed foreign contractors an estimated $9.0bn in July 2010, but has been working to pay them back with the help of a $1.4bn IMF loan.