Chavez Eyes More Oil-Industry Takeovers Next Week

CARACAS (Dow Jones Newswires), May 15, 2009

President Hugo Chavez acknowledged Friday that his government will continue to seize oil-company assets next week as part of its plan to expand the state's control over a key industry.

"You ask me if we have our eye on other [oil] companies, yes, yes," Chavez said in a televised press conference during a visit to Buenos Aires. "Next Wednesday...we will continue to seize companies in eastern Venezuela...I don't know how many, let's say all of them," he added.

Chavez's announcement comes more than a week after Venezuela's congress passed a new law opening the door for Petroleos de Venezuela SA to seize the assets of dozens of oil-service firms. So far, many have lost their assets, especially in the western part of the nation.

Foreign oil companies have freely operated in Venezuela for decades to the detriment of the Andean country's sovereignty, the president said.

"All the companies that perform gas-injection services for oil wells will be seized formally," Chavez said. "We will rescue those assets and activities."

The government has insisted that some of these oil services, particularly in the Maracaibo oil region, were once controlled by PdVSA.

The state oil giant has accumulated unpaid bills with contractors since August following the collapse of oil prices, and most of that debt remains unpaid.  

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