Hugo Chavez threatens to nationalise banks on lending
CARACAS: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to nationalise any bank should they fail to provide housing loans, including a unit of Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and Banesco Banco Universal, the country's largest lender.
BBVA Provincial and Banesco are among banks that could be taken over if they fail to comply with government-set lending requirements for homebuyers, Chavez said. Chavez made the comments after calling for an investigation of Banco Nacional de Credito CA for failing to process mortgage requests. "Any bank that slips will be expropriated, whether it´s called Banesco, Provincial or whichever," Chavez said yesterday on state television.
Chavez, who was speaking from a military base in Caracas with a group of people displaced by heavy rains, has called on the banks to help him solve a housing deficit in the South American country. The 56-year-old president has promised new apartments to people who lost their homes in mudslides and flooding from the rains that have killed at least 32 people.
Jose Maria Nogueroles, president of BNC, said today in a phone interview that the bank is in full compliance with its mortgage portfolio and that Chavez's comments came as a "surprise." A spokeswoman at Provincial declined to comment. "Banks that comply with the norms shouldn't have anything to worry about," Juan Carlos Escotet, president of Banesco and the Venezuelan Banking Association, said on his Twitter account. "The mentioning of Provincial and Banesco is to emphasize that any bank that fails to comply will be sanctioned, regardless of its size."
The government has closed 14 mostly small to medium-size banks since November 2009 for alleged liquidity problems, appropriation of deposits and unauthorized mergers.
With the takeovers and Chavez's $1.05 billion purchase last year of Banco de Venezuela, a local unit of Spain's Banco Santander SA, the government now holds 31 percent of all loans in the country. Venezuela's Banking Superintendent will investigate banks to verify whether they are complying with government mandates to fund housing, agriculture, tourism and manufacturing projects, according to an e-mailed statement.
"The whole banking system must finance specific sectors and we're hoping they show a greater willingness," Edgar Behrens, the superintendent, said in the statement. -PB News