CARACAS Venezuela will nationalize the country's largest steelmaker, Argentina-controlled steel producer Ternium Sidor would fall back into government hands.
Sidor union secretary-general Nerio Fuentes said the Venezuelan vice president informed the company and workers in a meeting late on Tuesday.
"We are here celebrating in an assembly the decision that Sidor returns to state hands," Fuentes told Reuters by telephone. A government minister who asked not to be named confirmed the decision,
At the weekend Chavez said his government would take charge of negotiating with the company in a drawn-out labor dispute over workers' pay that has led to regular short strikes in recent months.
Chavez made a series of threats to take over the steel producer last year, at a time when he was increasing his control of swathes of the economy in a nationalization drive.
He renewed his nationalization campaign last Thursday night by ordering the takeover of the country's largest cement companies, which are all foreign run.
In both cases, Chavez has complained the companies do not put a high enough priority on supplying the domestic market.
Officials at Techint, the company that controls Sidor, were not immediately available to comment on the takeover.
LATIN AMERICAN CONGLOMERATE
Ternium is a NYSE-listed company which is controlled by Argentine conglomerate Techint, based in Buenos Aires.
In Buenos Aires, Techint officials said they had no comment on the news of Venezuela's plan to nationalize Ternium Sidor.
Ternium's main operations are in Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina. For the fourth quarter of 2007, it reported a net profit of $221 million, up from $158 million in the same period of 2006.
Its holdings include steelmakers Siderar in Argentina and recently acquired Grupo Imsa in Mexico.
Its fourth-quarter sales totaled $2.3 billion.
(Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas and Cesar Illiano and Fiona Ortriz in Buenos Aires, Writing by Frank Jack Daniel, editing by Walker Simon)