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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Morales targets private energy and mines

From Merco Press

Bolivian president Evo Morales plans to restore control over companies which at one time belonged to the government, but a decision regarding railways (half Chilean, half private Bolivian) plus telecommunications will be delayed. 
Having nationalized the hydrocarbons resources and industry, the Bolivian government has targeted three other strategic areas: mines, electricity and environmental resources, said Noel Aguirre, Coordination and Planning minister.

“For us it is essential that the government as such plays an active role in productive processes and therefore having control over the companies is crucial, that is why we nationalized hydrocarbons”, added Aguirre.

The procedure will be to purchase shares from electricity and mining companies that were partially privatized in the nineties.

In those companies the Bolivian government holds 48% of shares through two pension funds, while the private sector controls 51%.

“Our purpose is to work with those four sectors and later incorporate railways and telecommunications, in a similar process of equity acquisition”, indicated Mr. Aguirre.

The roadmap was announced last week by President Morales on making public the National Development program, which has “no fixed timetable”, said Aguirre.

The companies that would return to state control are Telecom Italia’s Entel affiliate; power companies Corani, Guaracachi and Valle Hermoso, operated by US company Duke Energy Corp and other US and Bolivian investors; the Andina rail operator, which is 50% owned by Chile’s Antofagasta; and the Oriental rail operator, which is partly held by US company Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

The government has already initiated a similar process with three partially privatized energy companies that are currently controlled by Repsol YPF of Spain, BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Ashmore Energy International Ltd. of Britain.

The pension funds run by BBVA and Zurich have already handed over their shares in the three semi-privatized energy companies, Andina, Chaco and Transredes, to the state with no compensation.

However Planning Minister Carlos Villegas said the plan to recover control of the six telecommunications, electricity and rail companies were not a further nationalization.

“Try as I might, I can’t see that this is nationalization” added Villegas, who heads President Evo Morales’ economic team.

“The plan establishes that the same thing will be done with the remaining semi-privatized companies” Villegas said, adding that the government had no plans to restore state control to Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (LAB) the country’s debt-crippled flagship airline, which was also semi-privatized in the 1990s.

In the key mining industry, Villegas said, nationalization was not being considered, and plans to revitalize state mines COMIBOL would not affect private mining companies.

“We’re going to get back some (unproductive) mining concessions … but the nationalization of the mining industry is not on the agenda” he said.

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