* Frequently warns banks of nationalization
* Chavez aide has claimed BBVA unit for sale, bank denies
CARACAS Dec 7 Venezuela's President Hugo
Chavez on Tuesday threatened to expropriate any bank that
stands in the way of ambitious plans to finance homebuilding
and he made specific mention of a unit of Spain's BBVA.
The left-wing president has made similar threats in the
past, but most analysts doubt he wants to take over the whole
banking system. In recent days a close Chavez aide has twice
said BBVA's Provincial unit is up for sale, a claim denied by
Chavez has accelerated a program of nationalizations
throughout the economy since September as he rushes to make the
state the key player in most areas of the economy in South
America's top oil exporter before presidential elections in
After the government took over a string of small failing
banks over the last year, the public sector now controls about
a third of the banking system. Some analysts think that could
grow to about 50 percent in the medium-term.
"Any bank that slips up, tell me, show me, and I will
expropriate it, whether it's the Provincial, Banesco, Nacional
de Credito, whichever," Chavez told a group of families living
in a shelter after being evacuated from their homes during
heavy rains that have killed 30 and left another 100,000 in
"In three days I want to have a map of these banks that
want to complicate matters."
Venezuela's banking system is dominated by a small group of
companies widely seen as solid. Profits have been strong for
years despite stringent lending rules. A new law will oblige
banks to release more funds to promote home building.
Provincial is a subsidiary of BBVA (BBVA.MC). Banesco and
Nacional de Credito are Venezuelan banks.
Venezuela was already struggling with a massive shortage of
decent housing when stormy weather hit, and Chavez last month
ordered the expropriation of hundreds of semi-built apartment
blocks accusing construction companies of cheating prospective
home-owners by never finishing the homes.
(Reporting by Mario Naranjo' Writing by Frank Jack Daniel)