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The most frequently asked questions

At what point will some of Suez employees become employees of Veolia ?

It’s only on the closing day of the operation that Suez employees, who are intended to join Veolia, will actually become employees of the new group.

Until the day of closing, the two companies are completely separate, even if we will start working together very quickly to prepare their integration , while completely respecting competition law rules, including the establishment of a clean team, as we have already started to do.

What will happen in the next 6 months regarding the preparation of the merger?

Our approach includes dedicated merger preparation teams by Zones & Countries and by functional & transversal areas. We are assembling these teams over the coming days.

The overall objective is to prepare a robust merger plan to be ready at the transaction closing date, with particular focus on:

  • Protecting the base business
  • Carve-out of activities and people at the Suez Headquarters that will join Veolia
  • Set-up and support to the dedicated integration teams at geographic & functional levels
  • Identification and documentation of sources of value creation (both development & costs)
  • Preparation for Day 1 (especially critical items, like payroll, accounts consolidation, etc.)

We are using a weekly drumbeat internally to ensure the right cadence, and coordinate across the different merger preparation workstreams. To that aim, a central “merger taskforce” dedicated to preparing for the merger is being set up, strictly in accordance with competition law rules.

Will the integration teams be equally composed of Veolia and Suez managers? Are we allowed to meet and start to work together on the preparation of the merger?

We want to have mixed teams as much as possible and as soon as possible after the closing date (in line with engagement rules between the two parties along the way), and, in accordance with the competition law rules, to integrate Suez executives within the merger preparation governance as soon as we can.

The work organization between Veolia and Suez will follow two formats:

  • Mixed teams on preparation of the integration of the various countries and functions
  • Teams integrated into the clean team on sensitive data collection and analysis, under the supervision of our lawyers.

We will communicate shortly engagement guidelines between Veolia and Suez to the teams, following 3 principles overall:
  • Ensure that these exchanges and interactions are strictly compliant with the competition law rules
  • Inform the central team dedicated to preparation for the merger of all these interactions so we can ensure their traceability and compliance
  • Inform local hierarchies (e.g. Veolia people should inform the local Suez management if/when they want to meet with their Suez counterparts)

How are we going to manage the merger vis-à-vis our customers/local partners? When and how will we communicate with them?

First and foremost, our Number One priority during this preparation period is to protect our base business, which includes maintaining strong relationships with our customers, and looking after our teams in each business and functional area.

When it comes to customers and local partners, we will ask each team, at local level, to build and execute on a local communication plan (as per the ‘multi-local’ principle of the pre-merger planning). The Global communication team will equip local teams with editorial content and a communication toolkit, and provide guidelines to all countries on a communication timeline (based on the overall merger schedule).

How will the merger process happen in the different geographies, notably in those where overlaps are significant?

Based on the “multi-local” principle, the merger will be prepared at local level, and under the supervision of Zone & Country heads

We have distinguished 4 categories of countries, each with different merger preparation needs and requiring a different degree of effort:

  • Countries where Veolia and Suez both have presence, on the same activities (requiring the most effort and vigilance from a competition law standpoint, with an integration of both operations and support functions)
  • Countries where Veolia and Suez have presence, but on different activities (e.g. Veolia on Water and Suez on waste or vice-versa)
  • Countries with Suez presence only (with lighter merger support needed of course, although we will make sure after the merger to welcome our new colleagues, and connect them with the broader Veolia enterprise wherever relevant)
  • Countries with Veolia presence only (largely unchanged)

In any event, we will ensure strict compliance with competition law, including in assembling local merger preparation teams, and plan for these teams to be mixed (Veolia-Suez) as soon as possible. These teams - in particular in countries with overlapping presence - will be organized within the framework of the clean team to cover the preparation of all aspects of the local merger plan, i.e. covering:

  • All functions (IT, HR, Finance, etc.)
  • All Operations aspects
  • Transversal topics such as: identifying synergies, evolving the Organization/Leadership team, protecting the base business (e.g. contract renewals), preparing the welcoming & onboarding of our future Suez colleagues, etc.

What will be the key factors to make the merger a success and secure DAY 1?

There are at least three important factors:

  • First, the human factor: all Veolia and Suez employees have to understand and commit to a clear and shared industrial vision, our business priorities, our geographic priorities and our innovations strategy.
  • Next, the fact that until closing our two companies will continue to act autonomously and independently, pursuing their improvements in terms of operational performance and commercial development.
  • Lastly, the fact of having prepared for Day 1, a clear and defined organization concerning the rules governing operation, decentralization and subsidiarity for the new group, the essential role of the BUs where business is conceived and actually conducted and the role of strategic steering by head office, so that everyone knows at what level each decision is made. We also need the new Comex (executive committee) to be designated on Day 1 – it will obviously include members from Suez’s management – and the heads of Countries, Zones and major BUs will also be nominated.

What are the differences in culture between our two groups?

First of all, our two groups were born practically together, many years ago, and built similar business models, then gradually expanded beyond their original business of supplying drinking water, moving, almost at the same time, into management of wastewater and then waste management. The former Suez also took positions in energy before its merger with Engie.

We work in the same businesses and we’ve refined them; we’ve built what we call industry standards in parallel and we have developed the same business model. So in terms of business culture, our two groups are very similar.

We have a shared culture of striving and competition to win and also a shared ambition to build a great company that is a world leader in its sector.

We have the same feel for the business, and our histories, which have their common features, explain why our business cultures are compatible, if not close , which is why, from the merger on, these issues of culture will not be the most difficult to resolve.

What place will be offered to Suez managers in the Veolia group?

The place they deserve, at all levels of our future organization, since it’s by combining our forces that we will achieve our ambition. Our management organs will welcome Suez managers. We have adopted a process for developing our future Top management, which starts with a phase of familiarization and presentation of career development prospects and which will enable us to build effective mixed teams together.

Who will be eligible for an assessment of skills and careers? What will the process look like? What use will be made of it?

There will be two stages in this phase of the preparation for the HR integration : the first one, primarily geared towards operations, began this week, and the second one, which will concern support functions and the rest of operations, will be launched at the beginning of July.

Our ambition is for between 100 and 200 Veolia and Suez top executives to benefit from this program. In concrete terms, we have called on an external leadership consulting firm, Heidrick Consulting, to provide its expertise and carry out an assessment of our top talents worldwide. This process will be carried out simultaneously and with the same steps in both our organizations.

This external consultancy is intended to provide an expert eye on our talent management process, and of course reserves all final decisions to Veolia's senior management.

The assessment process consists of leadership profile questionnaires and a competency-based interview. These will be followed by a detailed feedback session. It is a unique opportunity for self-knowledge and personal development. Each person will find valuable elements to help him or her reflect on personal and career development.

Will the employees be able to make a choice between Veolia or SUEZ?

There are several possible scenarios: if the employee works in an area affected by the integration to Veolia, then it should be logical that he or she joins Veolia. If, on the other hand, he or she works in an area affected by the "New Suez", then, according to needs and aspirations, should remain with Suez.

As for the central functions, the terms of assignment to one or other of the areas have not yet been defined, but will be discussed between the two companies so that each can have the resources it needs for its management and growth, as well as with the people directly involved of course.

What does “ecological transformation” mean to you and how do you plan to achieve your ambition to be world champion of the ecological transformation?

“Transformation” is more than “transition”. People often use the terms “ecological transition” or “energy transition”. First off, a transition is sometimes something that is imposed, and it is often gradual. Ecological transformation is proactive, determined, rapid action to reduce or even eliminate, if possible, the negative impact of human activities on nature and the planet while at the same time enabling continued development of human organizations in a rational and harmonious way.

Indeed, this is what we summarize in the first line of our corporate purpose at Veolia: “Veolia’s purpose is to contribute to human progress by firmly committing to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

We segment our activities into three main parts:

  • First, there are the traditional activities, those we carry out at Veolia, at Suez, and at many other rival companies, in particular management of municipal water, production of drinking water, treatment of wastewater, collection and processing of waste, etc. Many players are already active in these businesses, but they still have fine growth prospects ahead of them! There is still considerable room for us to improve them and enhance their value. This will be the first avenue for building a champion we intend to create.
  • Then come the second type of activity: those that are new for both our groups, which we master well - one or the other, and sometimes both of us - but which are still not sufficiently deployed across the world, such as recycling of plastics, for instance. Veolia is specialized in some resins, Suez in others: by combining the two and offering them to our two types of customer base, one plus one can become two times two. In wastewater recycling, re-use is also an activity that is well mastered by both groups, but not yet sufficiently deployed globally. By combining the forces of Veolia and Suez, we will be able to accelerate investments, industrial in particular, and move ahead faster in widespread rollout of these solutions which we master.
  • Then there’s the third category of activity, the ones that don’t yet exist, the ones we will be using in 20 years’ time: –20 or 30 years from now, half of the solutions we will be able to offer do not yet exist today. A few examples:
  • Recycling of electric vehicle batteries. There are few end-of-life batteries today because there are few electric cars right now, but if we take Europe alone, the expectation is that there will be one million used batteries every year, and obviously as many in Asia, China and undoubtedly the United States. Recycling these electric batteries, which when used constitute hazardous waste, extracting the metals or rare materials such as lithium or cobalt, having the capacity to recycle them in an industry producing new batteries – this is a new solution that will be absolutely essential for the ecological transformation of our society.
  • Air quality in buildings.
  • Carbon capture: since we will be unable to limit emissions sufficiently to keep the increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees, we will have to supplement emission elimination solutions with emission capture solutions. But once they are captured, what do we do with them? Do we bury them, or do we do something more intelligent? Can we imagine – and this may be still rather Utopian– using them to “reseed” or restore soils that have been over-cultivated and are carbon-depleted.
  • Bioconversion: how can we feed 10 billion people in 30 years with less water, less energy and less land? Can we not use organic waste to do something even more interesting than making biofertilizers? Could we not convert them into animal fees and reserve grains for human beings? Or as nutrients for fish farming, which we will definitely need since soon there will not be enough fish in the sea to feed human beings?

This is how we envisage being a great champion of the ecological transformation. We want to be a “proposer” of solutions, those already well mastered, those insufficiently deployed and all the new solutions to be invented. We will not be the only ones to invent them, but we really hope that the new Veolia will be the company that proposes more of them and does so the fastest.

Will competition be preserved in France?

In the Veolia-Suez merger, the overlapping of activities primarily concerns France.

The competition authorities ensure that competition is maintained.

As it happens, the new Suez will take over all water management activities in France, with all the elements required to build a solid industrial future, with investment and innovation and research capacities, construction teams and all the activities around water, together with collection and treatment of solid waste in France.

This should reassure the competition authorities, and given that their portfolio will be supplemented by other activities outside France the group will be the world’s third water player and a major actor – 4th or 5th worldwide - in ecological transition, and therefore, obviously, a major player in France, as it is already. So competition will be totally preserved.

Will there be organizational change?

Today, our two groups have many similarities and common values. We work in the same businesses, we are both global groups, organized by geographies, and not particularly centralized, given the important role given to heads of Countries and Zones.

These principles of geographical organization and decentralization will be reaffirmed in the new Veolia group, with confirmation of the role of Country heads, bringing all the group’s activities – Water, Waste and Energy – together in a given country. There are two exceptions today, at Suez and at Veolia: hazardous waste in Europe and water technologies, which can only be organized on a European and global basis rather than by country.

The best way of allowing Country or BU heads to be really in charge is to ensure that the rules are clear from the outset and that we know where the decisions are made – at country or head office level – according to the principle of subsidiarity and central steering. In the end, success will come from the men and women who will build and implement this splendid project.

It seems that North America will play an important role in Veolia's plan to create a global champion of ecological transformation. Can you tell us how North America fits into your overall strategic plan?

North America is a strategic geography for Veolia given the size of this market and the importance of the environmental challenges to solve.

Veolia is present in municipal water (O&M), like Suez, but also and more importantly in the industrial market: hazardous waste, services to refineries, energy services, etc.

The new infrastructure plans decided by the Federal government will open up a great deal of opportunities for the combined entity. Indeed, the strategic orientations of Veolia fully fit this plan which aims at:

  • Achieving a 100% clean energy economy and reaching net-zero no later than 2050. (Every infrastructure investment that receives federal funding should reduce climate pollution, as much as possible).
  • Making water infrastructure and access to safe drinking water for all communities a top priority. Eliminating health risks, including holding polluters accountable and supporting upgrades to community systems.

We also see an acceleration of opportunities in industrial water and energy as well as hazardous waste.

What can this combination unlock in terms of growth potential and synergies, going forward? What are some of the areas you can see that the combination can help accelerate? And where do you see WTS fitting into the overall construct of Veolia?

The combination of WTS with Veolia can bring a lot of growth potential. Both with the strength in the industrial customer base Veolia has in the US, but as well when you think of the great potential for complementarities and synergies with our VWT business

VWT is a €1.6bn company, specialized in selling water technology worldwide, from evapocrystallization to water desalination or ultrapure water for pharmaceutical companies, just to mention a few.

There are strong geographical complementarities with WTS: WTS is more American, VWT more European, and strong complementarities in terms of technologies and cross-selling potential with chemicals.

We will have to find how to combine those forces in the best way possible to enhance our offers, leverage our customer bases and be even more digital and efficient.

The opportunities are many:
  • For cities facing water scarcity with water reuse, desalination, sludge to energy, micropollutants treatment.
  • For the pharmaceutical industry, which is booming due to demand for ultra-pure water (VWT); disinfection/electrodeionization (WTS) or the extension of our offer to waste water in synergy with our hazardous waste business.
  • For mobile business: growing demand, combined fleet of ~1 500 mobile units (mainly in North America and Europe)

What is your ambition in Asia?

Asia is a major growth platform for Veolia. From India to Japan, all countries are extremely different, but with tremendous potential. There will be nice geographical complementarities with the merger, as Suez has activities in Thailand, unlike Veolia, while Veolia has a meaningful presence in Japan, South Korea, Singapore.

In China where the presence of both groups is significant, and where the environmental regulation is increasingly stringent, we’ll have the potential to accelerate our growth strategy:

  • In the industrial sector, by expanding our offering to industrial clients and industrial parks, and to Suez customers, notably with our energy services.
  • In the hazardous waste market, where Veolia and Suez have strategic complementary locations around the main industrial areas of the country, in a sector with high potential: we’ll continue with the development of opportunities in this segment which is strategic to Veolia.

Asia is also for Veolia, as it is for Suez, a very dynamic region in terms of innovation. Together we will push further the development of new businesses (we call them “seeds” at Veolia), such as bioconversion of organic waste (into animal proteins), recycling of electrical vehicle batteries, or new digital services (artificial intelligence, blockchain,...) and many other solutions that we still need to invent.

What would success look like for you in 2023?

Success in 2023 will be multi-faceted and it should concern all those who commit alongside us and who we call our stakeholders:

  • For our clients and for society as a whole: success will be the new Veolia being recognized as a benchmark in the ecological transformation. This means that when an industrial customer wants to make a successful ecological transformation, when a city wants to initiate a sustainable city program, when environmental activists and those involved in the ecological emergency want to tackle the challenges we are facing, all these stakeholders turn to Veolia to ask us for the most appropriate solutions.
  • For our employees: success will be that in 2023, when we question the majority of employees of the group from both Veolia and Suez on their level of engagement, it will be one of the highest in the world, reflecting their commitment to the group, their enthusiasm in the mission to which they contribute and their personal fulfillment at work.
  • For our shareholders and creation of wealth: success will be that we make good on our promises in terms of growth, cost synergies and earnings.

At end 2023, we will launch a new multi-year strategic program similar to the one we are implementing today, which will be built with all the employees of the new group and all our stakeholders, to move to a new level in our ambition to be a world champion of the ecological transformation and contribute to our corporate purpose.