BBVA Venezuela Agrees to Cooperate With Government, Avoid Nationalization

BBVA Banco Provincial, the Venezuelan unit of Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, said it will work with the government and meet with families affected by an alleged housing fraud after President Hugo Chavez threatened to nationalize the bank if it did not cooperate.

BBVA Banco Provincial had “answered the president’s call,” said Executive President Pedro Rodriguez yesterday following a meeting with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.

“We’ve just had a meeting where we have agreed on the outline for resolving the whole problem tomorrow, the next day or by Monday at the latest so that the buildings can be finished and the people waiting can go and live in them,” Rodriguez said in comments broadcast on state television.

“We reaffirm our pledge to stay in the country and contribute to Venezuelan society’s progress,” Banco Provincial said in a separate message posted on its Twitter account yesterday, linked from the bank’s website.

Speaking on national television earlier, Chavez demanded Rodriguez respond to complaints by Venezuelans that the bank hasn’t provided the promised resources to finish a Caracas housing project or face expropriation.

“If Banco Provincial refuses to comply with the constitution, or presidential decrees, I’m going to nationalize the bank, I have no problem,” Chavez said during the televised event with “victims” of what he called housing fraud. “Tell me how much the bank costs. I’ll pay for it. It’s not for sale, but you know very well I can expropriate it.”

Past Seizures

Chavez, who has seized companies in the energy, food and metals industries during his 12 years in office, nationalized the local unit of Spain’s Banco Santander SA in 2009, paying $1.05 billion in a bid to consolidate economic control under the state.

Chavez ordered Maduro and Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz to meet Provincial’s Rodriguez yesterday to discuss the case.

Banco Provincial said it “strictly” follows Venezuelan laws and has supported government housing initiatives, according to a statement posted on the company’s blog.

Chavez threatened to nationalize the bank in December and during a political campaign in 2007. After speaking with Banco Provincial’s Rodriguez by telephone while on live television yesterday, he said he threatened to expropriate the bank because Rodriguez’s tone was “haughty” during the phone call.

“A Bit Haughty”

“I spoke to the president of Provincial, and he was being a bit haughty, so I had to put him in his place,” Chavez said, adding that his opponents were exaggerating his threats. “I hope no one gets taken in by that because they are looking to cause a bank run in order to damage the financial system and as always to destabilize the country.”

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria’s American depository receipts fell 0.58 percent to $12.02 in U.S. trading yesterday.

In November, Jose Vicente Rangel, Chavez’s former vice president, said on his weekly television program that Provincial was for sale for $2 billion, which Provincial’s Rodriguez denied in a statement.

BBVA is the fourth-largest bank by deposits in Venezuela, with 12.2 percent of the total and third-largest bank in assets, with 48.2 billion bolivars ($11.2 billion), according to Softline Consultores, a Caracas banking research and consulting company.

BBVA acquired a majority stake in Banco Provincial in 1997 and now holds 55.14 percent, according to the bank’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Cancel in Caracas at dcancel@bloomberg.net. Charlie Devereux in Caracas at cdevereux3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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