CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The government of President Hugo Chavez, who campaigned for office deriding what he called savage capitalism and neoliberal free-market policies, plans to privatize three electric utilities by year end.

Talks have been held with potential investors for the three companies, Enelco, Enerven and Enelbar, said Antonio Giner, the newly appointed head of the Venezuelan Investment Fund. He remained tightlipped on prices.

Giner also reiterated the government's plan to sell all the assets of Venalum, an aluminum operation that makes 430,000 tons a year. Giner said Venezuela is also seeking a partner Alcasa, a smaller aluminum producer.

The comments were the government's first formal announcement concerning the sale of state assets. Chavez criticized such policies during last year's electoral campaign, but has softened his position.

The government is selling the companies as part of its plan to close a record budget deficit of $8 billion.

Chavez, the leader of a failed 1992 coup attempt, took office three months ago.