Chavez expropriates major Gruma operation
by Josh Sosland
CARACAS, VENEZUELA — The government of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is expropriating the property and assets of Molinos Nacionales CA, or Monaca, from Gruma S.A.B. de C.V. The action has been linked to steps taken against Ricardo Fernandez, a banker who is a minority shareholder in Monaca. Venezuelan authorities have accused Mr. Fernandez of inappropriate banking practices. In December, the Venezuelan government named a representative to the Monaca board in connection with the actions taken against Mr. Fernandez. Gruma Venezuela, comprising Monaca and a second subsidiary called Demaseca, is the second largest corn and wheat miller in Venezula, operating 13 mills. In the most recent quarter, Gruma Venezuela accounted for a little less than 10% of the overall sales of Monterrey, Mexico-based Gruma.