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Profile: Compagnie GÃ©nÃ©rale des Eaux
Compagnie GÃ©nÃ©rale des Eaux was a participant or observer in the following events:
A number of French dignitaries, including French Minister of Commerce Bruno Durieux, travels to Buenos Aires to lobby on behalf of two French companies—Compagnie Générale des Eaux and Lyonnaise des Eaux—which are trying to win a concession to operate the city’s water utility. On one visit, Durieux reportedly says that France will increase its investments in Argentina based on “how many privatizations we win.” Daniel Chain of Aguas de Buenos Aires will later recall, “The Embassy of France was hyperactive throughout the concession process. Every week it invited political leaders to lunches attended by French ministers. However, the Embassy of Great Britain, which supposedly was supporting the bid of the British company, Thames, had a low profile. It was an unequal fight.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003 Sources: Daniel Chain]
Aguas Argentinas, a recently formed consortium of private companies, wins a 30-year concession to operate Buenos Aire’s water utility. It is awarded the concession because it promised a greater reduction in water rates than the other bidders. But it was close. Aguas Argentinas’s bid was 26.9 percent, just a fraction higher than the bid of another company, Aguas de Buenos Aires, which offered a rate decrease of 26.1 percent. According to the concession agreement, the company cannot raise rates for at least 10 years (rates have risen 62 percent since privatization was put on the agenda two years ago (see 1991-1993)). Additionally, it must invest $1.4 billion in the system, and connect more than 4,200,000 people to water and 4,800,000 to sewage systems. The foreign stakeholders in Aguas Argentinas include French companies Compagnie Générale des Eaux (later known as Vivendi; 8 percent), Lyonnaise des Eaux (later known as the Suez Group; 25.3 percent), Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (12.6 percent), and Anglian Water (4.5 percent). The remaining stakes are held by Argentine companies Bank of Galicia (8.1 percent), Grupo Meller (10.8 percent), and Sociedad Comercial del Plata (20.7 percent). Grupo Meller is run by Sergio Meller, a supporter of Argentine President Carlos Menem, and Sociedad Comercial del Plata is owned by businessman Santiago Soldati, another close ally of Menem. [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
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