By Lauren A.E. Schuker for the Wall Street Journal
Bottled-drink company Fiji Water said it reopened its facility in the South Pacific country for which it is named, following a two-day standoff with the local government over taxes.
Fiji Water, which is owned by billionaire investors Lynda Resnick and Stewart Resnick, closed its bottling plant Monday, sending about 400 workers home, in response to a move by the Fiji government to impose a steep tax increase on companies that extract large volumes of water from the country. Fiji Water was the sole company affected by the increase.
Over the past day, Fiji Water lawyers Craig Cooper and Marigold Moody met with Fiji government officials, including Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, seeking to resolve the dispute. After the meetings, Fiji Water agreed to accept the tax increases and reopened the plant 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday.
"Fiji Water is committed to working with the Fijian government and remains dedicated to helping the country's economy and its people," the company's president, John Cochran, said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Commodore Bainimarama, who came to power in a 2006 coup, said he would welcome a rival taking over Fiji Water's assets if the company refused to comply with the government's tax increases.
Fiji Water, which was started in 1996 by Canadian businessman David Gilmour, has deep ties to Fiji. Its water comes from an artesian aquifer in the Yaqara Valley, a remote part of Fiji's main island. Almost all of the company's workers are Fijians.
On Monday, the company idled those employees, saying it would pay them two weeks' salary. However, it said it has called them back to work for Wednesday's re-opening.
Fiji Water accounts for about 2% of the $10.6 billion U.S. bottled-water market, making it one of the biggest imported waters in the U.S.
The Resnicks' holding company, Roll International Corp., bought Fiji Water in 2004 from Mr. Gilmour, who also founded a resort in the country. Fiji Water's sales rose to $141 million in 2008 from $78 million in 2005 but fell last year to $85 million.