Africa Oil & Gas: Sonangol hires ex-ExxonMobil man for E&P job

Ivan Almeida Sa
Ivan Sa de Almeida

Angolan State oil company, Sonangol, has taken on an ExxonMobil executive to head up its exploration and production activities in a series of management additions that appear to be easing the workload of chairwoman Isabel dos Santos.

Ivan Sa de Almeida, who has previously worked with the Angolan state oil giant before moving on to the US supermajor, is one of three new faces added to the management team as the company looks to strengthen management in a number of areas to deal with the market downturn and declining production.

In a statement issued in Portuguese, Sonangol said the appointment of what it terms “administrators” is part of the next phase of a 17-month restructuring, which is seeing the management team enlarged to add specialization in a number of key areas.

Almeida, who studied in the US before joining Sonangol before moving on to an upstream role at ExxonMobil, appears to have been handed a role that effectively makes him exploration and production director.

Nobody was immediately available for comment at Sonangol on Friday afternoon. Upstream await a response to emailed questions from the oil company.

Susan Almeida Brandao has been brought in to head up the legal department, while Emidio Pinheiro will look after the management of non-core areas, such as Sonangol Holdings & Industry, bringing with him 30 years of experience in banking and insurance.

“The economic environment in which we operate is complex and demanding, so we need to strengthen our adaptability, agility and proactivity, through a greater division of responsibilities and thus greater capacity to act,” a translation of the statement read.

The most recent incarnation of Sonangol’s board of directors, finalised earlier this year, shows Dos Santos as chairwoman, head of Sonangol Finance Limited and head of E&P.

The latest management changes could be designed to relieve Dos Santos of some of her roles, with a video carried on Sonangol’s own website and posted two months ago showing the chairwoman heavily pregnant.

The changes also come just after Joao Lourenco was sworn in as president, taking the reins from Dos Santos’ father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for 38 years.

It is unclear if any directors will be moved out as a result of the additions, with Sonangol saying: “The other directors who remain in office will see their positions maintained or readjusted in accordance with the principles of efficiency and rationality that guide this change to the board of directors.”

In its 2016 annual report, published recently, Sonangol said it was working on strategies to pump much-needed investment into upstream operations to reverse declining production.

“Although expected production is relatively stable at an average of 622 million barrels annually (equivalent to about 1.72 million barrels per day) until 2019, in a medium-term perspective it will be necessary to invest in new production,” the report read.

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