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Chilean opposition parties plan to review Alan Bond's Chilean investment

CHRIS CLARKE: Alan Bond, already under pressure in various parts of his global empire, is again feeling the heat in Chile. During a short visit to the capital, Santiago, he was told in no uncertain terms by the country's main Opposition Leader, Ricardo Lagos, that a future democratic government would take a long hard look at his investments there.

Mr Bond is a major shareholder in OTC, the Chilean telephone company, and he also owns Chile's richest gold mine - that should be CTC, of course. However, his business activities there have not exactly been a public relations triumph with the Chilean people. His earlier praise of the Pinochet government's economic achievements did not go down well, and this was compounded by his more recent decision to lay off 250 telephone company workers.

Hamish Robertson has just been on the line to Chilean independent opposition politician, Jorge Bande, and he asked him to clarify what exactly Opposition Leader, Lagos, had told Mr Bond.

JORGE BANDE: What Ricardo Lagos told Mr Bond, is a reiteration of what the opposition parties have stated already a while ago, that is, that a democratic government would revise all of the privatisations which have been effected under the military government and that all privatisations effected after the plebiscite of October 5, would be automatically reversed by the democratic government. So, actually what Mr Lagos told Mr Bond was just a repetition of what had been said before.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: But does this mean that CTC, the Chilean Telephone Company in which Mr Bond has a majority shareholding, could face re-nationalisation by a democratic government?

JORGE BANDE: It could phase - I mean, that's certainly a possibility, however, I don't think it would be a very probable measure by a democratic government. What the democratic government would want to do is to revise the process, see if this the price paid by - in this case - Mr Bond, for the Chilean Telephone Company was a just price reflecting the value of that company, and if the process was transparent enough in all respects. That's what has been stated. I don't think that there would be an automatic re-nationalisation of the Telephone Company, or for that matter, of any foreign investment in privatised companies in Chile. It could be a possibility, depending on what is found out by the government in its revision of this process.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Alan Bond has said some fairly controversial things about the current political situation in Chile. Do you think there are political reasons why his commercial activities might not be welcome by a democratic government?

JORGE BANDE: What the Opposition said recurrently, before the plebiscite, was that it was a particular, a very politically sensitive moment in Chile and that all investments which were done during, foreign investments which were announced, or really materialised during that period, or clearly had a very clear, favourable effect over the government's position at that point. So, in that sense, obviously those investments had a political element in them. However, I think that the Opposition government would be very pragmatic in analysing this foreign investment if it would be in the government. I think that in that sense, whatever has happened before, would have to be looked in a much more pragmatic way and it would be decided, I will say, strictly on economical considerations regarding the benefit of those investments for the Chilean economy rather than on political considerations.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: So clearly then, the Opposition is aware of the dangers of possibly frightening off future foreign investment.

JORGE BANDE: Well, absolutely. I think the majority of the Opposition parties firmly believe and have stated that they're in favour of foreign investment in the Chilean economy; that Chile needs foreign investment. However, they have equally stated that this investment has to be done in such a way that the share of benefits between the foreign investor and the country is more equitable than it is now, which means basically, a change in the legislation under which foreign investment is allowed in the country today.

CHRIS CLARKE: Jorge Bande, Chilean independent opposition politician talking to Hamish Robertson.