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Venezuela Temporarily Takes Over Smurfit Plant in Valencia

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Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his government had temporarily taken over a packaging plant in Valencia owned by Smurfit Kappa Group Plc, the manufacturer of container boards and solid packaging products, for alleged price speculation.

The surprise inspection of the plant in Venezuela’s Carabobo state, revealed price increases of 166 percent for foodstuff packages and increases of 372 percent for other related products, Industry Minister Ricardo Menendez said on state television. He said the increases occurred between January 2012 and this month.

“We are realizing the temporary inspection of this company in order to guarantee raw materials for the food chain and to guarantee the supply of food products,” Menendez said.

Officials at Smurfit didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail request and a telephone call outside of regular business hours. The company is headquartered in Dublin.

The price increases were denounced by representatives from various multinational chains across Venezuela, according to statements from the Venezuelan government.

Venezuela’s national assembly approved on Nov. 19 the so-called enabling law, granting Maduro the power for one year to enact laws, such as limits on profits, without the oversight of congress.

Former President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March, nationalized over 1,000 companies or their assets during his 14 years in power.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pietro D. Pitts in Caracas at ppitts2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net