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Cement firm sells subsidiary to Venezuela

Swiss cement group Holcim has agreed to sell 85 per cent of its Venezuela subsidiary as part of nationalisation moves by the South American country.

Holcim, the world’s second largest cement company, said on Tuesday it would retain a 15 per cent minority stake after the $552 million (SFr607 million) deal.

Holcim Venezuela reported net sales of around $200 million in 2007, accounting for one per cent of the group’s turnover.

The socialist government also reached a deal to buy a majority 89 per cent share in the local operations of French company Lafarge. The contracts should be signed in the coming weeks, Holcim said.

Venezuelan government officials and national troops seized control of cement plants owned by Mexico’s Cemex SAB early on Tuesday after failing to reach a deal on terms for its nationalisation.

It followed a 60-day period for negotiating compensation laid out in a June nationalisation decree by President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez has called the nationalisation of cement companies one of many “steps toward socialism”. It follows the nationalisation of telecommunications, electricity and steel companies and major oil projects.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR