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Bonds News

RPT-Venezuela steel company protests at state takeover

(Refiles to fix typo in lead)

* Sidetur says it always followed price rules

* Latest in series of nationalizations by Chavez

CARACAS, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Venezuelan steel products company Sidetur on Monday protested being nationalized by President Hugo Chavez and denied it had ever broken the South American country’s price controls.

In the latest of several government takeovers in recent weeks, Chavez said the company was charging too much and ordered its expropriation during his regular television broadcast on Sunday. Six local construction firms also were nationalized. [ID:nN31102425]

“We are concerned there is a plan to mislead public opinion and justify the expropriation with the argument that Sidetur sells rebar at high prices,” the company said in a statement.

The firm, which is a subsidiary of local steel company Sivensa SVS.CR, said it had always complied strictly with official price regulations introduced in December 2006, despite inflation increasing by close to 100 percent since then.

“We urge the government to assess the impact of this move on infrastructure and construction plans at the national level, as well as on the workers and their families, and the suppliers and clients of the company,” it said.

Sidetur, which produces mainly rebar, bar, beam, angle and flat products, said in a statement it employed 1,857 staff directly and another 5,000 indirectly. It has six plants in Venezuela, an annual production capacity of more than 835,000 tonnes and exports its products to 25 countries.

It was the latest takeover to be announced by Chavez, who in recent weeks has ordered nationalizations including a U.S. bottle-maker, a big fertilizer plant, a motor lubricants maker and a major local farm supplies company.

The socialist president has put much of the OPEC member’s economy under state control during nearly 12 years in power. Supporters say he is redressing years of economic imbalance in the country while critics say his policies scare away investors. (Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Bill Trott)

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