Proposed investment in the South Asian country’s freshwater resource could create a monopoly for the U.S.-based company
American real estate development firm Carpenter & Company, Inc. is negotiating for the exclusive rights to sell Bhutanese mineral water outside of South Asia, Kuensel Online reports.
Carpenter & Company is holding talks with Druk Holdings and Investment (DHI) as a potential joint investment partner. DHI is a group of 14 companies established by a Royal Charter in 2007 and designated to be the government’s investment arm, according to the Hindu.
Private Bhutanese companies involved in the water business have objected to the proposal, arguing that it would give Carpenter & Company monopoly power, which is banned under Bhutan’s constitution.
“Not only us, but all other companies dealing in water or planning to come into the business, would not be in favor if it allows a monopoly of marketing outside India and Bhutan,” said the managing director of Bhutan Agro Industries, which sells bottled mineral water in Bhutan, India and Bangladesh.
Carpenter & Company inquired in May 2009 about investment possibilities in Bhutan’s mineral water sector, Kuensel Online, a daily news site in the country, reports. The company was informed that the sector was not open yet to foreign investment. However, foreign investment rules are being revised, which could allow Carpenter & Company access to Bhutan’s water resources.
Details about the proposed investment are difficult to obtain. DHI will only confirm that they are in discussions. Executives at Carpenter & Company did not return Circle of Blue’s phone calls or email messages by the time this article was printed.
Carpenter & Company seems an unlikely player in the water business. The company has developed hotels, shopping centers and a golf course but no water projects and no foreign projects, according to its website.
Companies under the DHI umbrella include businesses in hydropower, mining, banking, telecoms and aviation, among others. Bhutan’s Ministry of Finance is the sole shareholder in DHI, according to a company factsheet. The management and operations of DHI are separate from the ministry.
“DHI will not only complement the government’s efforts to accelerate development activities, but also provide critical support and services to the growth of the private sector,” said the chairman of DHI told Kuensel Online after its charter was signed.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton