Jobs at risk in water fight
THE jobseekers of Cooroy and their families will be the biggest losers if international soft drink giant Coca-Cola buys Cooroy Mountain Springs, warns Wimmers soft drinks owner Peter Lavin.
In a true David-versus-Goliath showdown, Mr Lavin is believed to be the only other party to have shown an interest in buying the bottled water factory, which has been dormant for months due to legal wrangling involving the former owner.
Mr Lavin said he had been advised by ANZ Bank early this month to present a firm "unconditional" offer for Cooroy Mountain Springs by Thursday, September 13.
He had expected to receive feedback to his offer within 48 hours.
The bank confirmed to Mr Lavin late last week it was negotiating with a party with a higher bid.
Mr Lavin said scores of jobs had been lost in the small hinterland town, and he was optimistic he could rebuild Cooroy Mountain Spring Water and again generate employment for locals.
He is concerned that a purchaser like Coca-Cola would keep the factory closed as a strategic move to stifle competition against its own Mt Franklin and Neverfail water brands, and use it simply as a water source for its Gold Coast factory.
Coca-Cola this week released a one-line statement assuring it was not buying the Cooroy company.
"We have not acquired Cooroy Mountain Group and we are not in negotiations to acquire it," the multinational said via an email from director of media and public affairs Sally Loane.
The assurance came despite claims by local retailers that Coca-Cola sales reps had been telling customers that it was the new owner of Cooroy Mountain Spring Water.
"The proof is in the pudding; we'll see in the next few days. There's not much you can do if it's all done and dusted," he said.
Attempts to get comment yesterday from administrator Korda Mentha were unsuccessful.
ANZ Bank is this week due to respond to requests for clarification on the identity of the prospective buyer.
Mr Lavin initially had offered to buy both Cooroy Mountain Springs and Wimmers soft drinks earlier this year, but succeeded only in securing the latter as the water company's legal matters needed sorting.
He is concerned that ANZ may have chosen to negotiate a deal with Coca-Cola, simply because its offer was higher.
"You've got a commitment to the community too," he said.
"It's not all about the money; in some instances it's about employment and people."