A Dutch court has ruled that Angolan oil company Sonangol should be reinstated as 100% owner of Netherlands-based offshore company Esperaza Holding BV.

In 2006, Sonangol allegedly made a 40% stake transfer in Esperaza Holdings to Exem Energy, a company owned by Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, under former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Esperaza holds a 45% stake in Portuguese firm Amorim Energia, which in turn owns a 33.34% stake in Portugal’s only oil and gas operator Galp Energia.

The dispute was related to Exem’s 40% stake in Esperaza which is now estimated to be worth $700m. However, the Angolan company rejected the move.

In 2019, Exem Energy was seeking to legitimise Sonangol’s ‘alleged transfer of shares’ in Esperaza Holdings.

The Netherlands court has now approved Sonangol’s move and declared the transaction related to share transfer as null and void, based on the factual findings.

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Sonangol said in a statement: “The Arbitral Tribunal concluded that the transaction by which Exem Energy BV intended to acquire its stake in Esperaza Holdings BV was contaminated by illegality, allowing its owners to influence the direct control of the national oil company, to reap extraordinary financial advantages in its favour to the detriment of the former and, consequently, of the Angolan State.”

The Angolan firm said it had made a large investment in the Portuguese company Galp in 2006, through Esperaza.

Exem was reported by Reuters as saying that the firm would appeal the ruling of Dutch court as it ‘does not agree with the court’s decision, in legal and factual terms’.

The company said: “In this arbitration decision, the political narrative clearly overlaps the legal analysis.”