Business News

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Some 30 percent of drinking water in Prague is wasted before it gets to the tap, because of massive leakages from an old and badly maintained pipeline system. There have also been numerous complaints about the quality of drinking water. Recently, the Prague Water and Sewage Company was acquired by French Vivendi Water. Does that mean that Praguers will see - or rather - taste an improvement? And how much is such an improvement going to cost? Vladimir Tax asked the director of Vivendi Water in Prague, Hillaire de Cherge.

A few weeks ago, the French-owned Vivendi Water acquired a majority stake in the Prague Water and Sewage Company, which produces and distributes drinking water to households in the Czech capital. Vivendi Water is the largest water company in the world. It has been operating in the Czech Republic since 1994 and together with Prague, it operates the water systems in eight major Czech cities, supplying water to 3.3 million people.

The Czech National Property Fund said it had selected Vivendi because it had offered the best project for the best price. The price was reportedly twice as high as the second highest bid, which, some say, is rather unusual in public tenders of this scale.

Following the decision, heated debates arose concerning the result of the tender, with the main objection being the price. Considering Vivendi is not acquiring the pipeline system itself but hiring it from the Prague City Council, and the fact that the contract expires in 13 years, critics said Vivendi might want to get their money back quickly by raising the prices excessively. The water system in Prague is also very old, and notorious for massive leakages which increase costs immensely.

I spoke to Mr de Cherge, Vivendi Water director for the Prague project, about his company's investment in Prague and the situation here in general.