Isabel dos Santos

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Isabel dos Santos
Born Isabel dos Santos
April 20, 1973
Baku, Azerbaijan SSR
Residence Luanda, Angola
Nationality Angola
Alma mater King's College London
Occupation Investor
Net worth Green Arrow Up Darker.svg US$ 3 billion (2013)[1]
Religion Roman Catholicism
Spouse(s) Sindika Dokolo
Parents José Eduardo dos Santos

Isabel dos Santos (born 1973 in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR) is the daughter of Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos. She is an Angolan investor.[2] She is considered by Forbes to be the richest woman in Africa[3] and the most powerful and richest woman in her country.[4] In 2013, according to research by Forbes, her net worth had reached more than three billion U.S. dollars, making her Africa’s first woman billionaire.

Family and education[edit]

Isabel dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos and his first wife, the Russian-born Tatiana Kukanova, whom he met while studying in Azerbaijan.[5][6][7] Her father's parents emigrated from Sao Tome e Principe[8][9] She studied electrical engineering[10] at King's College in London.[11] There she met her husband from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sindika Dokolo,[12] a son of a millionaire from Kinshasa and his Danish wife.[13] There were reports, that when they got married in Luanda, in December 2002,[14] the wedding ceremony cost about US$ 4 million, with a special choir flown in from Belgium and two planes chartered to bring food from France.[15] About 800 guests were present at the wedding, half of them relatives of the couple,[14] and also several African presidents.[15]

Business activities[edit]

In the early 1990s Isabel dos Santos returned from London to join her father in Luanda, starting to work for a German recycling company, then, set up a trucking business. Here the development of a walkie-talkie system paved the way for her subsequent foray into telecoms.[16] In 1997, at the age of 24, she started her first own business by opening the Miami Beach Club, one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on the Luanda Island.[17] In the early 1990s, in Luanda, she started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000,[18] a subsidiary of Jembas Group, that won the contract for cleaning and disinfection of the city.[19] Over a period of nearly 20 years she expanded her business interests continuously and this led her to create several holdings, in Angola and mostly abroad, and to make substantial investments in a series of prestigious entreprises, especially in Portugal.[20][21]

Investments in Portugal[edit]

Since 2008 she has had relevant interests in telecommunications, media, retail, finance and the energy industry, both in Angola and in Portugal. In addition to her commercial interest in oil and diamonds, Isabel dos Santos also owns shares in the Angola cement company Nova Cimangola. Jadeium, a company held by Isabel dos Santos, acquired 4.918% of ZON Multimedia shares from Spain’s Telefonica.[22][23]

Through the Netherlands-based Unitel International Holdings BV,[24] a company controlled by Isabel dos Santos,[25][26] the Angolan businesswoman is the main shareholder of ZON Multimédia with 29% since July 2012.[27][28] She is member of the board of Angolan bank in Lisbon, Banco BIC Português,[29] and through Santoro Holding she holds 20% stakes at Banco Português de Investimento.[30][31] She has other major stakes with the Angolan state oil company Sonangol through their mutual European Law holding, based in the Netherlands, named Esperanza Holding, in Portuguese Galp Energia.[32] Isabel dos Santos is a founding member and Board member of Banco BIC Português,[33] which recently acquired Banco Português de Negócios, a nationalized bank.[34]

Since November 2012 Isabel dos Santos is a non-executive board member of ZON.[35] In December 2012, Isabel dos Santos announced the invitation for a merger of ZON with Sonaecom, proved in March 2013 by the General Assembly.[24] Eight months later, after the green light from the Competition Authority, the merger of the two companies was formalized on August 27, 2013, with the transfer to ZOPT, a special purpose vehicle created to advance the operation which became the owner of more 50% of the capital of the new group, the shares that Isabel dos Santos and Sonaecom hold on Zon and Optimus respectively. There was a capital increase of ZOPT through contribution in kind from 50 to 716 million euros, while Sonaecom subscribed 358 million shares of the company, by delivering 81.8% of its stake in Optimus. The Angolan businesswoman, on her turn, subscribed exactly the same number of shares of ZOPT, through her holdings Kento and Unitel International, delivering 28.8% of the stake in ZON.[36][37][38][39] With this transfer of shareholdings in Optimus and Zon, Sonaecom and Isabel dos Santos became holders of over 50% stake in the merged company: Zon Optimus SGPS. On this occasion, a new strategy for the company was announced by Isabel dos Santos, with a multimarket vision.[40][41] On October 1, 2013, Isabel dos Santos attended the first General Assembly of Zon Optimus.[42] Isabel dos Santos’ investments in Portugal are in listed companies, which are therefore subject to official supervision of the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).[43] The starting point, however, was the creation of Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom, after a tender process she considered fair.[16]

Also through Unitel International Holding, a platform for Unitel investments where Portugal Telecom has no presence, she acquired the mobile operator T+, in Cape Verde and gained the license for the establishment of the second telecom operator in São Tomé and Príncipe.[44][45][46] Under this investment Isabel dos Santos announced during a visit to São Tomé and Príncipe that Unitel will invest in education in the country to train engineers, managers and other technicians and also focus on job creation.[47]

In an interview during the New York Forum Africa, held in June 2013 in Libreville, Gabon, Isabel dos Santos said that future of telecommunications in Africa is about thinking beyond mobile phones and focusing on connectivity with high capacity and big broad band that can connect the African continent.[48][49]

All in all, Isabel dos Santos' fortune in Portugal in mid-2012 amounts to an estimated 1.4 billion Euros.[50]

Investments in Angola[edit]

With 51% control of Condis, Isabel dos Santos signed a joint partnership with the Portuguese Sonae group in April 2011 for the development and operation of a retail trading company in Angola. The entry in Angola by the Portuguese group led by Paulo de Azevedo will be performed by the Continente (Angola), which will open the first supermarket by 2013 in Angola.[51]


In 2007 Isabel dos Santos was described by Portuguese daily newspaper Público as a “good businesswoman, very dynamic and intelligent, who’s also professional and friendly”.[52] The British newspaper Financial Times wrote, in March 2013, that “even some critics acknowledge Isabel dos Santos’s independent prowess as a businesswoman”. In the same interview, Isabel dos Santos says she does business and she is not a politician.[16]

The remarkable growth of Isabel dos Santos' involvement in the Portuguese communications sector has led to a position of concern in the Portuguese media. Newspapers expressed discontent with the latest transactions in 2012. According to some editorial, the operation can lead to a monopoly in some areas of the media business by centralizing Angola and Portugal. According to other editorial,[53] Isabel dos Santos has said she has no interest to invest in Portuguese media. Moreover, Isabel dos Santos was also accused of political bias, such as inside information and contacts in Portugal.[54] It seems a clear strategy of Isabel dos Santos in the Portuguese economy.[by whom?] Over the past three years (2009-2012) her share has increased exponentially. The sectors that draw attention are the communication and the financial system. Both activities are the investment priorities in of her own companies in Angola and abroad. Isabel dos Santos, currently one of the greatest entrepreneurs of her country, expands its business to Europe without diversifying the industries it serves.[54]

A Forbes magazine journalist and a political activist said that Isabel dos Santos has acquired her wealth through participations of companies that want to do business in Angola and by presidential grants.[55] Isabel dos Santos immediately denied these accusations for being false, and reminded that she is an independent entrepreneur and private investor, representing only her own interests.[56] According to what was published in the press, Isabel dos Santos investments on Angolan and/or Portuguese companies are transparent and have been conducted through transactions based on the arms-length principle, involving external entities, such as reputed banks and law firms.[57][58] Rafael Marques, co-author of the Forbes article, was criticized[59] by the existence of a confirmed financial relationship[60] between him and Media Empire of George Soros, who has interests in Southern Africa.[61]


Holdings of Isabel dos Santos in the recent years:[62][63]

  • Unitel International Holdings BV: change of name of Kento and Jadeium, based in Amsterdam, company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in telecommunications
  • Santoro Finance: company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in Banco BPI based in Lisbon
  • Esperanza: based in Amsterdam, energy, oil etc.
  • Condis: a retail business based in Luanda

Isabel dos Santos is President of Angola Red Cross[64]


  1. ^ Daddy's Girl: How An African 'Princess' Banked $3 Billion In A Country Living On $2 A Day Kerry A. Dolan, August 14, 2013
  2. ^ Africa Confidential about Isabel dos Santos
  3. ^ Isabel Dos Santos, Daughter Of Angola's President, Is Africa's First Woman Billionaire retrieved 23 January 2013
  4. ^ Forbes: Africa’s Richest Women May 2, 2011[dead link]
  5. ^ The Guardian: "Isabel dos Santos, dubbed 'princess', named Africa's first female billionaire" by David Smith January 25, 2013
  6. ^ Mail & Guardian (Zambia): "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers November 2, 2012
  7. ^ The Australian: "Angolan Africa's first woman billionaire" January 25, 2013
  8. ^ Biography at MPLA website (Portuguese)
  9. ^ Mail & Guardian: "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers November 02, 2012
  10. ^ Celso Filipe, Report about Isabel dos Santos on Negócios Online, December 2008
  11. ^ Isabel dos Santos: 'First African female billionaire'
  12. ^ La Famille Dokolo
  13. ^ "Augustin Dokolo, an African entrepreneur". Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Isabel dos Santos: A face invisível dos negócios angolanos em Portugal" (in Portuguese). Jornal Público. 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  15. ^ a b "Isabel dos Santos Africas First Female Billionaire". Gardian. 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  16. ^ a b c Source: Finantial Times - March 29, 2013
  17. ^ 'Jet set' em Luanda cada vez mais agitado, DN Online, 3rd paragraph, 4 July 2009 (pt)
  18. ^ Isabel dos Santos profile by Forbes
  19. ^ Guardian: It's party time for Luanda's elite as Angola grows rich on oil and gems August 31, 2008 (section 7)
  20. ^ Isabel dos Santos reforça em Portugal com entrada na Zon Diário Económico, 21 December 2009 (pt)
  21. ^ Isabel dos Santos é a 18ª figura mais poderosa da economia portuguesa Jornal de Negócios, 4 August 2011 (pt)
  22. ^ [1] by CMVM
  23. ^ [2] by CMVM
  24. ^ a b ANNOUNCEMENT, CMVM Official website 14.12.2012
  25. ^ Angola: Isabel dos Santos reinforces her presence in Portuguese firms, 9 May 2012
  26. ^ Millennium investment banking: Kento qualified holding comment March 14, 2011 (page 1)
  27. ^ NYSE Euronext Company profile
  28. ^ Zon's shareholders unanimously approved the entry of Isabel dos Santos (pt)
  29. ^ BIC board members (pt)
  30. ^ Shareholders structure BPI June 24, 2011 (pt)
  31. ^ Bloomberg: Isabel dos Santos wants to raise stake at BPI, December 22, 2010
  32. ^ Report on Voice of America (pt)
  33. ^ Banco BIC Português Official website
  34. ^ Isabel dos Santos profile in Forbes
  35. ^ [ Isabel dos Santos integra administração da Zon by LUSA Press agency
  36. ^ [3] by CMVM
  37. ^ [4] by CMVM
  38. ^ [5] by CMVM
  39. ^ [6] by CMVM
  40. ^ Optimus, Zon merger brings potential for expansion - Dos Santos
  41. ^ [7] Isabel dos Santos The strategy of the new company will be open to new geographies]
  42. ^ Isabel dos Santos comparece na AG da Zon Optimus, Jornal de Negócios
  43. ^ [8] CMVM
  44. ^ Source: ANGOP
  45. ^ Telecom Paper
  46. ^ Africa Telecom and IT
  47. ^ Unitel STP to start operating in Sao Tome and Principe this year, Macau Hub
  48. ^ Isabel dos Santos: “My model would be someone like my grandmother”, Jornal de Negócios
  49. ^ Isabel dos Santos: Interview to New York Forum Africa, Dinheiro Vivo
  50. ^ Powerful Isabel dos Santos, Visão (Lisbon) 1002, 16/5/2012
  51. ^ Portuguese group Sonae authorised to open hypermarkets in Angola Aicep Portugal Global, retrieved 27 December 2011
  52. ^ Isabel dos Santos: O rosto de Angola in Público
  53. ^ Isabel dos Santos sem interesse na RTP1 in Diário Económico
  54. ^ a b Empresária angolana adquire importantes participações em duas grandes empresas portuguesas, Observatório dos Países da Lingua Portuguesa, in English: Observatory of the Portuguese Language Countries, 14 May 2012 (Portuguese
  55. ^ Daddy's Girl: How An African 'Princess' Banked $ Kerry A. Dolan, August 14, 2013
  56. ^ Isabel dos Santos denies accusations made by Forbes, Diário Económico
  57. ^ Isabel dos Santos denies accusations made by Forbes, Jornal de Notícias
  58. ^ Isabel dos Santos denies accusations made by Forbes, SOL newspaper
  59. ^ The story of a hidden activist with George Soros lurking, Briefing magazine
  60. ^ Analysis examines the impact of colonialism on Africa's modern-day problems, BBC
  61. ^
  62. ^ Os negócios de Isabel dos Santos em Portugal Dinheiro Vivo Online, 9 May 2012 (pt)
  63. ^ A Angolana mais rica de Portugal, English: The most rich Angolan in Portugal, 1 August 2012 (pt)
  64. ^ Angola Red Cross Official website

External links[edit]