Nestle mulls 'offers' for Perrier

22nd October 2004, Comments 0 comments

VEVEY, Switzerland, Oct 21 (AFP) - The Swiss-based food giant Nestle has received several "interesting" offers to take over its troubled French mineral water brand Perrier, Nestle chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said Thursday.

VEVEY, Switzerland, Oct 21 (AFP) - The Swiss-based food giant Nestle has received several "interesting" offers to take over its troubled French mineral water brand Perrier, Nestle chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said Thursday.

"We have serious offers on the table," he said as Nestle presented nine-month financial results which showed a stagnation in the food group's overall sales in value terms.

It was the clearest sign yet from Nestle that a sale of the mineral water brand, which it bought 12 years ago, could still be on the cards despite apparent progress in a dispute with staff unions at the southern French firm.

Brabeck insisted he was not feigning interest in selling the troubled brand.

The majority CGT labour union at Perrier last month lifted long running opposition to an early retirement programme proposed by the group's Nestle Waters division, which Nestle had demanded as part of a cost-cutting plan.

Nestle Waters had warned beforehand that it might sell Perrier if it could not carry out restructuring.

But it had also signalled boosted investment in the brand if the union accepted the early retirement proposals for 1,047 of Perrier's 4,100 workers.

The CGT on Thursday rejected Brabeck's remarks as "a provocation".

Union official Jean Paul Franc said that the statements from Nestle's headquarters in Switzerland coincided with a meeting between management and staff at Nestle Waters in France.

Management at the group's French mineral water division outlined plans to bring the different parts of the division closer together, Nestle Waters France said in a statement

Executives at Nestle's global headquarters said Thursday that Perrier had never made money for the group and complained about high rates of absenteeism, relatively high wages and low productivity at the southern French firm.

"We cannot keep on subsidising the lack of productivity at Perrier through the good performance of our other companies abroad," Brabeck said.

He also hinted that the brand name Perrier could be used for on bottles filled elsewhere than the firm's traditional source in Vergeze.

"I can produce Perrier anywhere in the world, that's something that might interest an investor," Nestle's chief said.

Franc said the statements could be a bluff and the food giant would go ahead with a sale regardless if that was its strategy.

"As for the possibility of producing Perrier outside the Vergeze site, it would only be deceitful for the consumer. Perrier will stay in Vergeze," the union representative said.

Nestle on Thursday reported that sales for the global group had remained unchanged in the first nine months of 2004, compared to the same period last year, at 64.6 billion Swiss francs (EUR 41 billion, USD 52.9 billion).

© AFP

Subject: French News

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