Nestle, Union Dispute May Lead to Perrier Sale

Swiss food and beverage giant Nestle SA said it may sell Perrier, the brand that led the 1980s bottled water boom, unless unions agree to accept staff job cuts within days.

A spokesman for Nestle Waters said the company has set a Wednesday deadline for a deal with unions and would consider a possible sale of loss-making Perrier if no agreement is reached.

Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck first threatened in March to sell Perrier, citing its poor performance compared with other Nestle waters such as San Pellegrino.

As a first step, Nestle may spin off the brand as a separate business, with its own financial results, preparing the way for a possible sale.

Nestle declined to comment on a media report that the private equity arm of French bank BNP Paribas SA has already expressed an interest in Perrier.

It is unclear how many job cuts are being sought at Perrier. Nestle Waters executives said in March the group planned to cut 1,000 jobs at its water division which employs about 27,000 people.

French unions have so far refused to agree to the job cuts proposed by management, based on an offer of early retirement to older workers at Perrier's plant in Vergeze, in southeastern France.

The Associated Press

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