The news that Elon Musk is interested in buying a part of the Novi Sad mineral water company Minaqua, along with the news that the Rosa Homolje Company was acquired by Coca-Cola, has again raised the same old question: can a foreign company own a water source in Serbia?
According to the information provided by Aleksandar Bogunović, secretary of the Association for Plant Production and Food Industry from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, there are about 300 springs in Serbia and between 25 and 30 factories of different capacities deal with bottled water. He adds that resources must be used rationally and must be managed as a valuable asset that is gaining more and more importance in the world.
The importance of our mineral water factories is demonstrated by the fact that they have been privatized by foreign companies. The largest water bottling company in Serbia, Knjaz Milos, is now owned by Pepsi and the Czech soft drink producer Motoni 1873. The Vlasinka factory and its Rosa brand now operate under Coca-Cola. Mg Mivela is owned by the Croatian Fortenova Group, while Palanački Kiseljak was acquired by Atlantic Grupa, also from Croatia. Minaqua, a mineral water factory in Novi Sad, is owned by Pandam NS, which is managed by the international investment fund Global Water Investment Group LTD.
Coca-Cola also owns the water bottling factory Duboka, while Allied Beverages Adriatic has signed an agreement to buy a stake in the company Anđelković. After this transaction is completed, Anđelković will also be owned by Coca-Cola through its affiliate Barlan Inc. and The Coca-Cola Export Corporation.
This means that only Bujanovac’s Heba, owned by the beverage producer Nektar from Bačka Palanka, Voda Vrnjci (owner Ekstra Pet), Prolom Voda (small shareholders), Voda Voda (Vojin Djordjevic) and Voda Jazak (NIS) are still owned by domestic companies if we are talking about larger water bottling companies.
Economist Nada Vidović has a different view about the privatization of our water resources. At the conference titled “Water as a Public Good or Strategic Interest” she pointed out that Serbia “had sold its water springs quietly, without public debates and the consent of its citizens.” As stated at the time, “our country did not take the opportunity to strategically transform itself into an important player on the back of its abundant natural resources,” she said and added:
“We sold our natural resources by treating them as ‘commodities’ below the price so now private foreign companies are profiting from water,” Vidović said, adding that with the privatization of public water supply systems, Serbia would completely lose independence in the availability of this resource.
This post is also available in: Italiano