Bolivia Proposes Taking Back Control of Former State-Owned Firms

Bolivia's government plans to study how to buy back majority stakes in public service companies - including oil companies Chaco and Andina - that were partially privatized in the 1990s, development minister Carlos Villegas said in his ministry's newsletter.

The government will search for a means to obtain 51% stakes in the privatized firms so it can name their board members, Villegas said.

The government of President Evo Morales is seeking to take control of 10 companies partially privatized over the past decade, local press reported.

The companies include national carrier Lloyd Aereo Bolivia (LAB) and telecoms operator Entel.

Petrolero Chaco is currently controlled by Argentine firm Pan American Energy, in turn controlled by the UK's BP (NYSE: BP) and Argentina's Bridas, while Petrolero Andina is controlled by Spanish oil company Repsol YPF's (NYSE: REP) local unit.

The government has said it will initially look to buy shares in these companies but if necessary could pursue other means to wrest control away from foreign investors.

The state would also like to control these companies' investments, the taxes they pay and staff wages, Villegas added.

Morales was elected on a pledge of ensuring greater Bolivian control of its assets, in particular its natural resources.

State control of these companies would be irrelevant if the government is able to pass a law on good corporate governance, local daily El Diario quoted AFP Futuro pension fund president Gonzalo Bedoya as saying.

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