Bolivia nationalises four energy firms, takes control of telecom operator news

May 2 - Bolivian president Evo Morales has announced the nationalisation of four global energy companies operating in the country even as the state took absolute control of the National Telecommunications Company (Entel), in a continuation of the country's nationalisation policy.

The four energy companies are: Transredes, part of British firm Ashmore Andina owned by Spain's Repsol; Chaco, a subsidiary of Pan American Energy; and CLHB, controlled by joint Peruvian and German firm Kapital/Oiltanking GmbH, local newspapers reported.

Bolivia's state energy company paid $6.3 million for a majority stake in Andina, one of the country's biggest energy companies which exploits oil and gas fields and owns a 50 per cent stake in two giant gas fields.

The Bolivian government took control of Chaco from BP and Pan American Energy and the Transredes pipeline company from Ashmore Energy International through a decree.

Morales said the government will have majority shares in Chaco and Transredes and expropriate 100 per cent of CLHB, while the Bolivian government would take "absolute control from this moment on" of Entel, in which Telecom Italia owns a 50-per cent stake.

"Today we are nationalising Entel, and starting today Entel returns to the hands of the Bolivian people," Morales said in a May Day speech. "Basic services - call them energy, water or communications - cannot be in the hands of private business," he said. "They are public services," he added.

The move comes ahead of a referendum due in two days in one of the country's wealthiest provinces, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, seeking greater autonomy over utilisation of its natural gas and other resources.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader elected in 2005, has declared the referendum illegal.

Santa Cruz's large population of European origin is trying to block Morales in the leftist president's nationalisation programme of the country's key resources, started two years ago.

Morales plans to use the revenues from the nationalised industries to fund government schemes for the majority native Indio community, living mostly in the resource-poor highlands in the country's western parts.

While previous part-nationalisation of the country's oil and natural gas, including oil, electricity and cement industry, has helped double the government's income, the lion's share of the income continued to go to the provinces.

With strong backing from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in his efforts to nationalise industries, Morales' government has also renegotiated substantially more lucrative contracts with foreign energy companies.

Bolivia's state energy company paid $6.3 million for 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 per cent stake in two giant gas fields.

It has also taken over control of Chaco from BP and Pan American Energy and the Transredes pipeline company from Ashmore Energy International.

Republished from Domain-b

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