Venezuela Takes Over Metal, Ceramic Industries

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez ordered the takeover of at least six metal, ceramic and other companies Thursday, accelerating his push to spread socialism and build "an industrial complex" in Venezuela.

The companies include Venezuelan steelmaker Siderurgica Venezolana SA, ceramic tile-maker Ceramica Carabobo, and iron producer Materiales Siderurgicos SA, or Matesi. Matesi is owned by the Argentine-Italian conglomerate Techint through its Luxembourg-based subsidiary Tenaris.

Also affected is iron producer Complejo Siderurgico de Guayana, whose shareholders include Japanese investment conglomerate Marubeni Corp., Japanese steelmaker Kobe Steel Ltd., and Mexico's Tubos de Acero de Mexico SA.

Chavez said the move will help Venezuela reduce reliance on imports and boost local industry.

"We're planning a single large, integrated industrial complex," he said.

Chavez's government has nationalized major steel, cement, electricity, telecommunications and oil projects since 2006 in a bid to expand the reach of the state. In the last month it has seized 75 oil contracting firms, many of which said they are owed money by state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.