Nestle considers selling Perrier

15th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 15 (AFP) - Nestle Waters said Wednesday it might well sell Perrier, the French mineral water, although other options included outsourcing the iconic source.

PARIS, Sept 15 (AFP) - Nestle Waters said Wednesday it might well sell Perrier, the French mineral water, although other options included outsourcing the iconic source.  

The subsidiary of Swiss food giant Nestle issued a statement following a works council meeting southwest of Paris amid speculation Perrier would be sold because unions had rejected an early retirement plan for more than 1,000 workers.  

"The central works council was ... informed of the possibility of selling the Perrier division, a project that will be examined along with others," the statement said.  

Richard Girardot, president of Nestle Waters France, told AFP that selling Perrier was currently the favoured option.  

The self-proclaimed "champagne of waters" has failed to regain the fizz of 1989, when Perrier produced around 1.2 billion bottles of sparkling mineral water, to which natural gas is added, from its source in Vergeze, southern France.  

In 1990, a US lab found minute traces of benzene - a carcinogen - in the water, forcing Perrier to withdraw 280 million bottles from the market.  

Union delegate Eric Pery told AFP Wednesday that management was considering "a range of choices concerning the future of Perrier and Nestle Waters in general".  

The group is the world's leading distributor of bottled water, with brands like Poland Spring, Vittel and San Pellegrino contributing to annual sales of more than EUR 5 billion (USD 6 billion) last year.  

The meeting's agenda said Nestle would unveil a "new orientation given the impossibility of putting into effect" an early retirement plan announced in January that concerned 1,047 Perrier workers of a total 4,100.  

In July, the majority CGT trade union along with Force Ouvriere (FO) had rejected the plan, exercising their right of refusal following nine months of negotiations.  

CFE-CGC delegate Barnard Marcy pleaded Wednesday with both the CGT and management to return to the bargaining table.  

"We call on the conscience and responsibility of the two main partners, the management and the CGT, to put the early retirement plan back on the table, it is our deepest wish," he told reporters with tears in his eyes.  

But Girardot later told AFP: "We refuse to return to the negotiating table.  

"The CGT must indicate that it 'rejects its right of refusal', approve the original project and create no obstacles to its application."  

Nestle Waters, which has controlled Perrier since 1992, has been weighing its sale in the face of the union opposition but has also floated the idea of moving production to another source.  

The CGT responded by seeking a patent believed to have been filed in the early 1900s under which only mineral water from the source in Vergeze may be used by the brand.  

All projects being considered are to be presented to employee representatives in the coming weeks, the Nestle statement said.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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