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By TJ Strydom
CAPE TOWN, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Angola’s largest mobile operator Unitel expects no growth in mobile users this year, its chief executive said on Wednesday, citing weak consumer spending and an economy suffering due to the falling price of oil.
The company has 11.5 million users and is 25 percent-owned by Brazil’s Oi SA, which got the stake in the company after a merger with Portugal Telecom.
“We’re holding our own,” Unitel Chief Executive Tony Dolton told Reuters at the AfricaCom conference in Cape Town. “We haven’t lost customers, we haven’t gained customers, at the end of the year I expect us to be the same size we were last year.”
Oi is reconsidering the sale of the stake in Unitel as relations with partner, Isabel dos Santos, improve, Chief Executive Bayard Gontijo told Reuters in May.
Dos Santos, the daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, owns 25 percent of the company and other investors, including the state-oil company Sonangol, hold another 50 percent.
“We haven’t increased the cost of air time but people have less money in their pocket to spend on telecommunications,” Dolton said.
Angola’s economy has grown rapidly since a 27-year civil war ended in 2002, peaking at 12 percent three years ago, but a recent sharp drop in oil prices LCOc1 has sapped dollar inflows, dented the local currency, hammered public finances and prompted heavy government borrowing.
Oil output in Africa’s second biggest exporter represents 40 percent of gross domestic product and over 95 percent of export revenue. (Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by James Macharia)