BBVA Banco Provincial, the Venezuelan unit of the Spanish company Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, has denied claims by a longtime ally of President Hugo Chavez who said the local bank was being put up for sale for $2 billion.

It added that the "false" statements were a purposeful attempt to undermine the bank's stability.

"The board of directors of BBVA Banco Provincial emphatically denies the irresponsible and unchecked information delivered … by the journalist Jose Vicente Rangel," said a statement by Pedro Rodriguez, the president of BBVA Banco Provincial.

Rangel, a former vice president to Chavez who was his right-hand man for many years, left the Chavez administration in 2007 to go back to being a journalist. Rangel, 81, plays host to a popular Sunday morning show called "Jose Vicente Today," where he made the comments.

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