March 19 (Reuters) - Venezuela will go ahead with the nationalization of the local unit of Spanish bank Grupo Santander, President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday, weeks after officials said the purchase was on hold. [ID:nN19250279]
The announcement is the latest step in a nationalization drive by the socialist leader that includes foreign-owned farm assets.
The following are some of key events in Chavez’s 10-year push to build a socialist state in South America’s top oil exporter.
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 country 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.
Chavez said on Thursday he will buy Banco de Venezuela, a division of Spanish banking conglomerate Grupo Santander (SAN.MC), to help him channel state resources. Originally announced last year, the takeover was delayed as falling oil prices hit the OPEC nation’s income.
Chavez has said he will nationalize any bank that fails in Venezuela.
In 2005, Chavez began implementing a 2001 law that lets the state expropriate unproductive farmland or seize farms without proper titles. The government redistributed land deemed as idle in an effort to boost food production and ease rural poverty — taking over a handful of large farms including a British-run ranch.
A year later, the government agreed to pay more than $3 million to a group of Spanish farmers who said they would drop their claims over land seized as part of the redistribution.
In March, Chavez seized a eucalyptus plantation owned by Irish cardboard company Smurfit Kappa (SKG.I)(SKG.L) to use the land for other food crops. Earlier in the month he took over a rice mill run by U.S. food giant Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], demanding the company produce cheaper rice.
In 2007, the Chavez government nationalized the country’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 compensation for its assets.
In the same year, Venezuela expropriated the assets of U.S. based AES Corp (AES.N) in Electricidad de Caracas, the country’s largest private power producer. The government paid AES $740 million for its 82 percent stake. Financial analysts described the deal as fair for AES. (Reporting by Caracas Newsroom; Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Lincoln Feast)