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INTERVIEW-Angola wealth fund head denies plan to succeed president, his father

Source: Reuters - Tue, 12 Nov 2013 07:25 AM
Author: Reuters
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In this 2010 file photo, speedboats sit beneath the backdrop of Luanda REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
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* Long-serving president's son chairs $5 bln sovereign fund

* Says appointment not political, defends transparency

* Fund has made no investments yet, to do so in few months

By Shrikesh Laxmidas

LUANDA, Nov 12 (Reuters) - The new head of Angola's $5 billion sovereign wealth fund (FSDEA) said on Tuesday his appointment by his father, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was not part of a campaign to groom him for the presidency.

Jose Filomeno dos Santos, who was appointed to head the fund's board in June, said he had long been in the financial sector, dismissing speculation that his 71-year-old father might try to forge a dynasty in Africa's second biggest oil producer.

"This has in no way anything to do with a political campaign of any kind," said the 35-year-old finance graduate, who founded Banco Kwanza Invest, Angola's first investment bank, in 2008.

"In my career I have been in the financial sector most of the time, in insurance and banking, doing similar investment assessments to the ones that we are doing."

His father, who has been in power for 34 years and secured a another five-year term in 2012, has long kept everyone guessing about his political plans.

In an interview with Brazil's TV Band last month, he signalled he was preparing a succession, saying his MPLA party was discussing a transition of power internally. He did not name a chosen successor.

Many observers see Vice-President Manuel Vicente as the favourite candidate, but some analysts say the president's eldest son, who has no direct political experience, could be an alternative.

Angola launched the FSDEA in October 2012 to help diversify an economy which depends on crude for over 95 percent of export income and 45 percent of economic output.

The fund is meant to help Angola protect itself from oil price shocks but the president's appointment of his son raised new questions about transparency and nepotism in a country that has a woeful record on corruption.

"We are on the right track on transparency, governance and efficiency. That is how we would like to be assessed, especially now that we have independent auditors to objectively verify our accounts," the younger dos Santos said, adding the fund had not made any investments since its launch in October 2012.

The fund on Monday named Deloitte as its auditor.

Dos Santos said the fund would report quarterly to the finance ministry, while annual audited accounts would be presented to parliament and published in local media.

"We have made no investments to date. The endowment of the fund remains at the central bank. Now that we have the auditors in line and prepared to work for us, we will be able to start the investments in the coming months," he said.

The fund said in June that half of its investments would be in investment-grade fixed income and equities in the G7 leading industrialised countries and the rest in high-yield emerging market assets in Africa and projects to improve education, health and energy in Angola. (Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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