VILA NOVA DE GAIA, Portugal (Reuters) - Portugal's biggest retailer Sonae plans to open five food hypermarkets in Angola in partnership with Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the country's president, with the first scheduled for 2015, a company board member said on Thursday.
Foreign players are investing in Angola's retail market to take advantage of an oil-backed consumption boom in the country, which is Africa's No.2 crude producer after Nigeria. The Angolan economy is set to expand 7.1 percent this year.
South Africa's Shoprite, the continent's top grocer, plans to add 21 shops to its existing 17 in the country over the next three to four years. U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart is also planning to enter the market through its Massmart unit.
Sonae has 440 food retail stores in Portugal, where consumption has suffered under austerity imposed by the and international bailout. It has expanded its non-food shops selling electronics and clothing to 20 overseas markets.
"We continue to believe that there are still opportunities in the market," Sonae board member Luis Reis told Reuters on the sidelines of an equities conference in northern Portugal. "We have approval for the project from the government and are working on the operational setup."
Conglomerate Sonae entered a partnership with Condis, owned by Isabel dos Santos - daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and recently listed by Forbes as Africa's richest woman - in 2011 with a view to opening stores this year.
Isabel dos Santos has large stakes in telecommunications operators and banks in Angola and Portugal. Sonae recently merged its Optimus mobile unit with cable TV provider Zon, in which Dos Santos is the largest shareholder.
Operational difficulties delayed the launch of the project in Angola, but the joint venture, in which Sonae has 49 percent and Condis 51 percent, plans to open four or five stores and a logistics centre in the capital Luanda in 2015, Reis said.
"If these stores adapt well to the market and are well-received by consumers our intention with our partner is to roll out the format across the Angolan market," he added.