CARACAS (Reuters) - Kimberly-Clark Corp is planning a $234 million investment to expand operations in Venezuela, the state news agency said, in a move that should help ease an embarrassing national shortage of toilet paper.
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Scarcity of some food items, medicines and basic bathroom products has marred the start of President Nicolas Maduro's government, which began in April.
The shortages have become symbolic of the South American OPEC nation's increasingly tangled economic problems, particularly a shortage of dollars for importers.
The government blames private businesses for hoarding and price-gouging. Critics say the shortages, high inflation, and slowing growth are the result of nationalizations and other socialist economics under Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Officials say the problems are easing, though Venezuelans still complain they cannot find many items, and queues at supermarkets are a common scene across the nation.
"When the shortages occurred, the productive sector, together with the government, designed a strategy to combat it. Now things are fine," Trade Minister Alejandro Fleming said after a meeting with representatives of the U.S. company, according to state news agency AVN.
Kimberly-Clark, which has two plants in Venezuela, has a 15 percent market share for toilet paper, and also makes other products such as sanitary towels and diapers.
The general manager of its local subsidiary, David Cohen, said the $234 million investment would be made over 6 to 24 months, and would increase the company's local capacity by 30 to 40 percent, according to AVN.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)
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