Chavez orders nationalization of Venezuelan cement makers

Business Materials 4 April 2008 23:35 (UTC +04:00)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the nationalization of his country's cement industry, a sector led by the Mexican company Cemex. ( dpa )

Cemex's stock fell on Friday and the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it had contacted the Venezuelan government "to find out the extent and the nature of the comments" of Chavez, which were made late Thursday.

The left-wing populist Chavez complained that cement makers are exporting their produce and causing scarcity in the Venezuelan market. The move comes after Chavez nationalized oil and other sectors last year.

"These firms export cement, it is capitalism. Let us nationalize it and from that instance on let us adopt all legal measures, all economic measures to nationalize in the short run the entire national cement industry, everything that has been privatized," Chavez said in a televised address.

The Venezuelan president guaranteed current owners that they will be compensated for their assets.

Last year, the Venezuelan government nationalized the state communications company CANTV, the power company Electricidad de Caracas, and the heavy oil production complexes on the Orinoco Basin, in eastern Venezuela.

Cemex, one of the largest construction companies in the world, has a 52-per-cent share of the Venezuelan market. It operates three plants in the South American country, where it has the capacity to produce some 4.6 million tonnes of cement per year.

"We are going to request a meeting with the Venezuelan government in order to know the real dimension of the move," Cemex spokesman Gerardo de la Torre told Mexican daily Reforma.

The Swiss Holcim and the French giant Lafarge are also players in the Venezuelan cement industry.