The merger of two mineral water bottling companies in the Czech Republic has been given the go-ahead.

Karlovarske Mineralni Vody has been okayed to merger with Podebradka, the Czech anti-monopoly office said yesterday (31 May). The office has insisted that the two firms must continue to sell their products under separate trademarks and maintain present price differences for the next five years.

In 2004, the Supreme Administration Court sided with the Anti-Monopoly Office and upheld the ruling banning KMV from merging with Podebradka and rival water company Hanacka Kyselka. The office had said that such a merger would have led to the new company holding 80% of the Czech mineral water market.

At the time, KMV was fined CZK10m (US$370,439) for breaching competition laws by merging with Podebradka without waiting for the court's approval.

A spokesperson for the office told local reporters this week that KMV and Podebradka would not now have a dominant position over the market. A report from Czech News Digest, however, noted that KMV is the largest player in the domestic market, with almost 50% share.