The Wall Street Journal

Venezuela Nationalizes French Retail Chain
The Wall Street Journal

President Hugo Chavez ordered Sunday the seizure of a French-owned retail chain on accusations that it raised prices after Venezuela devalued the currency by half.

« Until when are we going to allow this to happen? » Mr. Chavez asked during his Sunday television program in reference to the alleged price hike by Almacenes Exito SA, headquartered in Colombia and controlled by French retailer Casino Guichard-Perrachon S.A.

The Venezuelan leader said that new law may need to be approved to carry out the nationalization. « I’m waiting for the new law to begin the expropriation process, » he said. « There’s no going back, » he added.

Almacenes Exito saw some of its stores closed this week by government authorities on accusations that it was increasing prices regardless of Mr. Chavez’s orders that retailers were not to adjust prices after he devalued the currency to 4.3 bolivars per dollar from the previous rate of 2.15 bolivars.

Separately, Mr. Chavez also ordered the nationalization of a large shopping-mall recently built in a downtown district in Caracas. The stores controlled by Exito and the shopping mall will be used to build up Comerso, a new government-run retail chain which seeks to sell its products at « socialist » prices, according to the president.