* Frequently warns banks of nationalization
* Chavez aide has claimed BBVA unit for sale, bank denies
CARACAS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - 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 the bank.
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 2012.
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 temporary accommodation.
“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