Isabel dos Santos’ Angolan hypermarket chain to close half of its stores

Angolan chain Candando, a subsidiary of Contidis Group, is to close three of its six outlets. It has struggled to import products since its Portuguese bank accounts were frozen in January 2020 at the request of the Angolan Attorney General. The latter is pursuing Isabel dos Santos, the owner of Contidis Group, on charges of embezzlement and money laundering that relate to her time at the helm of state oil company Sonangol.

The daughter of former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, the 47-year-old has a net worth of USD1.8 billion, making her the 13th wealthiest person in Africa, according to Forbes. Founded as recently as 2016, Candando currently operates half a dozen hypermarkets in the vicinity of Luanda. These have sales areas ranging from 4,000m2 to 10,000m2.

Dos Santos commented: “Only half the stores will continue. Out of 2,000 workers, only half will remain.” She added that “They are killing the companies with this seizure … The seizure order had Candando de Portugal’s bank accounts frozen. In other words, it can no longer pay suppliers.”

Meanwhile, the economic fallout from Covid-19 has hit Angola’s oil-dependent economy particularly hard, with the foreign-exchange value of the Angolan kwanza plunging to an historic low of USD0.0017. This helped to push the annual rate of food price inflation in Luanda to 23.1% during April – its highest level in almost three years.

The Sagaci Research View: Regardless of dos Santos’ legal problems, Candando’s hypermarket model, like that of local rival Kero, is a very poor fit with market conditions in Angola, where the purchasing power of most consumers is extremely limited and very few own cars. Moreover, its weaknesses are being exacerbated during this time of economic crisis.

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