In October 1999 the city-state of Berlin sold a 49.9 per cent share in its water and wastewater utility, the Berliner Wasserbetriebe (BWB), to an international consortium comprising the French water multinational Vivendi (today Veolia), the German multi-utility RWE and the insurance company Allianz. The price tag of DM 3.3 billion (ca. €1.69 billion) was hailed by proponents at the time as ‘the greatest sale of assets in the history of Berlin’. 1 The partial privatization of the BWB had been agreed under duress, not least to help relieve the city's chronic public debt, and was a highly controversial decision. Despite the city retaining a majority shareholding in the new company, serious concerns were voiced about the loss of influence of public authorities over a company co-owned and managed by global players, and the effect this would have on the pursuit of social, environmental and technology policy objectives in the city. In order to minimize the negative effects of the partial privatization and to exploit the opportunities created by collaboration with key actors in international water markets, a number of agreements were made as part of the privatization package targeted at protecting jobs, limiting price increases, securing investments in infrastructure and supporting environmental improvements. One of these agreements was to create a joint centre of competence for water management in Berlin – the Kompetenzzentrum Wasser Berlin (KWB) – as a public-private partnership of water utilities (Veolia and the BWB), the Berlin state ministries for science, environment and the economy, the city's universities and research institutes, and business groups.