Venezuela expropriates 2 more companies, ranch land

Hugo Chavez has nationalised many companies in a bid to boost socialism.

Caracas: President Hugo Chavez announced the expropriation of two more companies on Sunday, the latest among hundreds of enterprises taken over in the socialist leader`s campaign to make Venezuela less capitalistic.

He also said Venezuela would take over about 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of farm and ranch land after reaching an agreement with the British owner.

On his weekly television and radio show, Chavez said the "forced acquisition" of Industrias Venoco CA, a maker of lubricants, would take effect when the decree is published in the Official Gazette.

His government had been threatening for two years to take over the company.

Chavez complained that companies like Venoco buy petroleum from the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and then make big profits by refining it into commercial products.

"They have plants, they have money ... and lubricants produce and sell for four to five times more than they cost" as raw materials, he said. "You are going to see how we will achieve this at lower costs, prices," he added.

Chavez also said the government was taking over a fertilizer producer, Sociedades Mercantiles Fertilizantes Nitrogenados de Oriente.

There was no immediate comment from the owners of companies.

Chavez said his government was buying the farm and ranch land from a subsidiary of the British company Vestey Group on October 20 under an "amicable settlement”.

The President did not disclose terms of the deal, which he said also included the purchase of thousands of head of cattle. Company executives could not be reached for comment.

Chavez has nationalised hundreds of companies, including cement makers, retail stores and steel mills, over the past three years seeking to boost socialism in Venezuela.

Business leaders have criticised the takeovers, arguing that Chavez`s socialist-inspired policies are ruining the economy.

Venezuela has been in a recession since last year. Its gross domestic product shrank 3.5 percent in the first half of this year. It contracted 3.3 percent for all of 2009.

Bureau Report

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