January 11, 2018 / 6:35 PM / a year ago

Venezuela's top private bank Banesco denies sale to government

CARACAS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s top private bank, Banesco, will not be sold to the government, its president said on Thursday, knocking down comments by a top Socialist Party official who said talks were underway for a $3.5 million sale.

Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said on Wednesday night that talks would begin this week and that Banesco President Juan Carlos Escotet had accepted an offer made by the government.

The comments sparked concerns in the business community that Venezuela’s authoritarian government was seeking to expand its control over a banking sector struggling under soaring inflation and a fourth year of recession.

“As I already said in 2014, children are not sold,” Escotet said on Twitter, referring to the bank as his child. “Banesco is not for sale. Today more than ever, I am betting on Venezuela.”

Late socialist leader Hugo Chavez expanded the state-run banking sector with the nationalization of Banco de Venezuela, which had been in the hands of Spain’s Grupo Santander and was previously the country’s top bank. (Reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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