(Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez nationalized a local unit of U.S. food giant Cargill on Wednesday and threatened to seize Venezuela’s largest private company, Polar, as he demanded the food industry produce cheaper rice.
Chavez’s clash with the food companies came less than three weeks after he won a referendum on allowing him to run for reelection in the OPEC nation despite falling oil prices.
An ally of Cuba, the Chavez government has nationalized major parts of the economy. They include:
In 2007, Chavez’s government took a majority stake in four oil projects operating in the Orinoco river basin worth an estimated total of $30 billion.
U.S. companies Exxon (XOM.N) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N) quit the nation over the move and filed arbitration claims against Venezuela. France’s Total (TOTF.PA) and Norway’s StatoilHydro (STL.OL) received around $1 billion in compensation after reducing their holdings.
Also in 2007, the Chavez government nationalized the nation’s largest telecommunications company CANTV, buying out U.S.-based Verizon Communications’ (VZ.N) 28.5 percent stake for $572 million. Analysts said Verizon received fair compensations for its assets.
In the same year Venezuela expropriated the assets of U.S. based AES Corp (AES.N) in Electricidad de Caracas, the nation’s largest private power producer. The government paid AES $740 million for its 82 percent stake in the company. Financial analysts described the deal as fair for AES.
Chavez in April last year announced the government takeover of the cement sector, targeting Switzerland’s Holcim HOLN.VX, France’s Lafarge LAFP.PA, and Mexico’s Cemex (CMXCPO.MX).
Lafarge and Holcim agreed to stay on as minority partners.
Venezuela has taken over the operations of Cemex, the nation’s largest cement producer, but has not reached a deal over compensation.
Chavez last year said Venezuela was buying Banco de Venezuela, a division of Spanish banking conglomerate Grupo Santander (SAN.MC) to help him channel state resources.
On Tuesday a top government official with knowledge of the situation said the deal was on hold for now, and sources at the bank said the government did not have the money to follow through on the purchase this year.
Chavez has said he will nationalize any bank that fails in Venezuela.
Also in 2008, Venezuela took operational control of the country’s largest steelmaker Sidor, previously controlled by Argentine steelmaker Ternium (TX.N). The takeover followed months of strikes and frequent disputes between management and union leaders. A compensation deal has not been reached.
Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Editing by Saul Hudson and Eric Walsh