Page last updated at 23:48 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 00:48 UK

Bolivia grabs control of gas firm

Transredes-run gas pipeline, Bolivia
Transredes transports natural gas to clients in Brazil and Argentina

The Bolivian government has taken full control of a key gas pipeline company after talks with the foreign firm that held a controlling stake broke down.

President Evo Morales said Transredes had been seized after US company Ashmore Energy International failed to agree to a share buy-back.

Transredes transports Bolivia's natural gas to clients in Brazil and Argentina.

It is the latest move in the Bolivian president's recent effort to nationalise key industries.

Ashmore has yet to comment on the move.

President Morales said Ashmore had agreed to sell some of its 25% share in the firm but that these talks had not led to a deal.

"We waited patiently all month, but the actions they took were totally different," the president said.

"They wanted to be bosses, and have us be the employees. We're a small country - sometimes they call us underdeveloped - but we have lots of dignity. Partners are welcome, but we will not accept bosses."

Officials said Royal Dutch Shell, cited as another foreign in investor in the pipeline, had wanted to work with them.

Chavez ally

President Morales came to power two years ago promising his country's poor a greater share in revenues from the oil and gas industry.

The BBC's South America correspondent Daniel Schweimler says the president's radical plans have upset foreign companies and threaten to split the country.

Three regions in Bolivia's east, where most of the oil and gas is found, have recently voted for greater autonomy and oppose sending more revenues to the central government.

Parts of Bolivia's energy industry was privatised in the 1990s, with foreign companies taking 50% stakes.

Last month Bolivia's state energy company bought a majority stake in Spanish-owned Andina, one of the country's biggest energy companies which exploits oil and gas fields, and owns a 50% stake in two giant gas fields.

It has also taken over, by state decree, the control of Chaco from BP and Pan American Energy.

Mr Morales is an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has also taken back control of a number of industries from foreign control, including oil, electricity and cement.




SEE ALSO
Bolivia nationalises energy firms
01 May 08 |  Business
Venezuela nationalises steel firm
09 Apr 08 |  Business
Chavez calls for steel takeover
01 May 08 |  Business
Country profile: Bolivia
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Bolivia
26 May 08 |  Country profiles

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