Venezuela's government plans to nationalize a major private bank, Banco de Venezuela, a subsidiary of Spanish banking group Santander, on May 22, local media cited the country's president as saying
CARACAS, May 14 - Venezuela's government plans to nationalize a major private bank, Banco de Venezuela, a subsidiary of Spanish banking group Santander, on May 22, local media cited the country's president as saying. Hugo Chavez announced the nationalization plans for the bank, one of the four major banking institutions in Venezuela with a value estimated at $1.2-1.9 billion, back in July last year. However, the slump in global oil prices put the deal on hold. In late March, Chavez reiterated his nationalization plans, but both sides failed to reach an agreement on a date for the deal. The finance minister is meeting with bank's representatives to finalize the deal, after which "this financial institute will be transferred to public ownership for all Venezuelans to strengthen the Venezuelan nation and stimulate economic development," local media cited Chavez as saying. The price paid for the bank has not been released. Santander acquired the Venezuelan bank in 1996 for $351.5 million through a public tender, and in 2007 the bank announced profits of 179 million euros ($236 million). Since 1998, the Venezuelan authorities have been involved in a nationalization campaign targeting major domestic companies in key sectors of the economy. In particular, the government has nationalized the steel company Sidor, the cement industry, private oil fields, the telecommunications sector and 2.3 million hectares of agricultural land.