Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 14:35 UK

Chavez plans to nationalise bank

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez says he expects a backlash from Spain over the plans

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced a plan to nationalise Bank of Venezuela, one of the largest banks in the country.

He has asked for a meeting with the bank's owners, Spain's Grupo Santander, for a meeting to agree a price.

Santander is thought to have planned to sell the bank to a Venezuelan banker.

The country has begun nationalising industries, including electricity and gas, as part of Mr Chavez's drive toward "21st century socialism".

Cement and telecommunications industries are also set to be taken over by the state.

Backlash expected

Santander has about 4,500 bank branches in Latin America and the region accounted for about a third of its profits in 2007.

However, in its latest annual report it acknowledged that its Venezuelan operations were at risk of nationalisation.

Mr Chavez said that he expected a backlash in Spain.

Last November, there was a row at a summit in Chile after Spain's King Juan Carlos told Mr Chavez to "shut up".

However, the pair met last week to improve relations.

And the Spanish government said it would not intervene in any deal.

"We hope an agreement will be reached quickly, in a short amount of time, between the two sides," said deputy prime minister Maria Teresa de la Vega.

"They are talking, they are negotiating and they are going to reach an agreement."

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