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Troubled Thames Water seeks way forward as shareholders refuse to pump in more cash

The Business Magazine article image for: Troubled Thames Water seeks way forward as shareholders refuse to pump in more cash
Thames Water staff at work
2 April 2024
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Thames Water staff at work

Troubles at Thames Water, the UK's largest water company, are continuing after investors said they would not give the company £500 million of extra cash by the end of this month.

The company, which serves 15 million customers in Swindon and Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and London, has over £18 billion in debt and needs huge investment to improve its ageing infrastructure as well as to pay fines.

READ MORE: Thames Water secures £750 million cash injection from shareholders

Thames wants Ofwat to agree to putting up customers' water bills over the next five years amid the company's turnaround plan, but reportedly, the regulator is not prepared to do that.

On Thursday, it emerged that shareholders, which include large pension funds and Chinese and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds, are worried that conditions imposed by Ofwat had made Thames Water "uninvestible" and are withholding a first payment of £500 million due at the end of March - part of a commitment made last summer to pump £750 million this year into the beleaguered company.

The latest twist raises the prospect that the utility firm could be temporarily nationalised.

The UK government has said it was ready to take over the firm if it collapses.

New CEO Chris Weston, who was only appointed in December last year, was reported by the BBC as saying on Thursday that the company was currently "a long way" from nationalisation.

In addition, in a stock market statement, he said: "I'd like to reassure our customers that, despite this announcement, it is business as usual for Thames Water. Our 8,000 staff remain committed to working with our partners in the supply chain to provide our services for the benefit of our customers, communities and the environment."

His appointment came after CEO Sarah Bentley unexpectedly stepped down in June last year amid reported boardroom turmoil after only two years in the role.

Thames Water said it was still hoping to agree a future business plan with Ofwat.

"Discussions with Ofwat and other stakeholders are ongoing. Thames Water aims to secure a PR24 regulatory determination that is affordable for customers, deliverable and financeable for Thames Water, as well as investible for equity investors," the firm said in the statement.

As at the end of February this year, Thames Water had liquidity of £2.4 billion of cash and available committed facilities, it added.


Giles Gwinnett is a writer at The Business Magazine. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and covered a vast array of topics at a range of media settings - in print and online. After his NCTJ newspaper training, he became a reporter in Hampshire before moving to a news agency in Gloucestershire. In recent years, he has been covering the financial markets along with company news for an investor-focused web portal. His many interests include politics, energy and the environment. He lives in Dorset.

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