Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thames Water investors to quit boards amid spectre of bailout

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Representatives of Thames Water’s multinational syndicate of shareholders are poised to quit as directors of its corporate entities after refusing to inject the billions of pounds of funding required to bail it out.

Sky News has learnt that a number of board members at companies connected to Kemble Water Finance, Thames’s parent, are expected to resign in the coming days.

City sources described the move as “the logical next step” after the owners of Britain’s biggest water utility said they would not commit more than £3bn to help upgrade its ageing infrastructure and shore up its debt-laden balance sheet.

A default on part of Thames Water‘s holding company debts last month has raised the prospect that the company is heading towards special administration, a form of insolvency that would effectively leave the government liable for managing a utility firm which serves nearly a quarter of Britain’s population.

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Thames Water under threat

Thames Water is owned by a group of sovereign wealth funds and pension funds from countries including Abu Dhabi, Australia, Britain, Canada and China.

A number of the investors are represented on boards which sit at various points in the group’s labyrinthine capital structure.

It was unclear on Wednesday whether Michael McNicholas, a representative of the giant Canadian pension fund Omers and who sits on the board of Thames Water Utilities Limited, was among those in the process of stepping down.

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Along with the rest of the privately owned water industry, Thames Water faces a crucial moment next month when Ofwat, the industry regulator, publishes its draft determination on companies’ five-year business plans.

The draft rulings will be subject to negotiation before final versions are published in December.

Thames Water and a spokesman for Kemble declined to comment.

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