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Morales orders nationalization of Bolivian telecom half owned by Italian company
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    LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales says he is nationalizing the leading Bolivian telecom company, Entel, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia, and will return four foreign-owned gas companies to state control.
    Morales announced plans to buy back a majority of the former state company last year, but negotiations with Telecom Italia SpA have dragged out.
    Terms of the Thursday nationalization announcement are not immediately clear, though Morales said the company’s employees would keep their jobs.
    The president used May Day festivities in La Paz to make the announcement.
    He alsoreported the purchase of a majority stake in the energy company Andina, a subsidiary of the Spanish company Repsol YPF, and issued a decree placing three more foreign-owned gas interests, including subsidiaries of British Petroleum and Ashmore Energy International, under state control.
    Bolivia privatized Entel in 1995 and handed 50 percent of the company to Stet International in exchange for the Italian company’s promise to invest US$608 million to improve service. Stet later merged with Telecom Italia.
    Telecom Italia says it has spent more than that to build Bolivia’s largest cell phone and Internet networks while maintaining a commanding share of the now-deregulated telecommunications sector.
    But the Bolivian government claims that Telecom Italia fell short on the promised investment and owes some US$25 million (euro18 million) in taxes.

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