Venezuelan President to Nationalize Electrical and Telecomm Firms

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced plans Monday to nationalize the country's electrical and telecommunications companies, calling them "strategic sectors" that should be in the hands of the nation.

The New York Stock Exchange immediately halted trading in CANTV , Venezuela's largest publicly traded company, which was singled out in Chavez' speech. The decision was also likely to affect Electricidad de Caracas, owned by AES.

It was the boldest move by the Venezuelan leader since he was re-elected by a wide margin last month promising to a more radical turn toward socialism in Venezuela.

"All of those sectors that in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity -- all of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized, Chavez said in a televised speech after swearing in a new Cabinet.

"C.A. Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV), let it be nationalized," Chavez said. "The nation should recover its property of strategic sectors."

Chavez threatened last August to nationalize CANTV, a Caracas-based former state firm that was privatized in 1991, unless it adjusted its pension payments to current minimum wage levels, which have been repeatedly increased by his government.