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Thames Water shareholders refuse to inject new funds

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Thames Water said its shareholders will no longer provide £500mn of fresh equity by the end of the month over fears that conditions imposed by the industry regulator make the company’s business plan “uninvestible”.

The £500mn was the first part of a £750mn commitment made by shareholders last July, which was subject to the implementation of a new business plan.

In a statement on Thursday, Thames Water said it was still hoping to agree a business plan with regulator Ofwat that was “affordable for customers, deliverable and financeable for Thames Water, as well as investible for equity investors”.

It was planning “to pursue all options to secure the required equity investment from new or existing shareholders”, Thames Water added.

Thames Water, which supplies around a quarter of the UK’s population, has come under growing financial strains as higher interest rates add to the cost of servicing the group’s £18.3bn debt pile.

At the same time, the utility is under pressure to upgrade its ageing infrastructure, faces fierce public criticism and regulatory fines over sewage discharges and is also wrestling with the challenges to its business from climate change.

It has been lobbying Ofwat to agree to steep increases in water bills, concessions on regulatory fines and an agreement that it can continue to pay dividends. 

Thames Water’s shareholders include the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System as well as Chinese and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds. 

The company was plunged into turmoil last June when chief executive Sarah Bentley quit after a boardroom dispute over its turnaround plan. In December, Thames Water announced that Chris Weston, a former head of British Gas, would be her permanent replacement. 

“I’d like to reassure our customers that, despite this announcement, it is business as usual for Thames Water,” Weston said on Thursday. 

Via

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