Who really owns our water companies?

Drop from tapAs Severn Trent looks set to fall into foreign ownership, we look at just how many water suppliers are no longer in British hands.

Severn Trent has been approached about a takeover bid by a group of foreign companies. The deal could be worth a whopping £5 billion.

Severn Trent is one of the biggest water companies in the country and supplies 7.7 million people with drinking water across the Midlands and Wales.

The Severn Trent bid
The group involved with the bid include the Canadian investment group Borealis, which already owns assets in the UK, the Kuwait Investment Office and the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

A statement was issued confirming the proposed takeover, although acceptance of the £5 billion bid has not been confirmed.

It said: "This approach is at a very early stage, no proposal has been made and there can be no certainty that an offer will be made or as to the terms of any such offer, should one be forthcoming."

After this announcement shares in the company jumped more than 18% to a record high before falling back again.

More details will be announced on the 11th June when the offer will either be confirmed or extended.

Customers are unlikely to see a difference if the takeover does go ahead because prices are under the control of water regulator Ofwat.

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UK water companies in foreign hands
Severn Trent is just one of several utilities companies now under foreign control. This is because utility companies have proved to be a strong investment, as they're a good way to receive a steady income.

After the UK water industry was privatised in 1989 several new companies were formed and many of these have now been sold off.

In 2006 Thames Water was bought by a consortium which included the Australian investment group Macquarie and a Chinese wealth fund.

Yorkshire Water, which now supplies 4.7 million people, was snapped up in 2007 by another consortium, this time made up of Citigroup, HSBC, and the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC.

Northumbria Water was also bought in 2011 by the Hong Kong-based company Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

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Where your water company is based
The table below shows which water companies are owned by overseas investors. There are now 12 water companies, out of the 23 in the UK, which have foreign owners not including the proposed Severn Trent deal.

Water company British or overseas ownership Who owns it?
Affinity Water (formerly Veolia Water Central, Veolia Water East, Veolia Water Southeast) Overseas US-based Morgan Stanley and UK-based Infracapital (investment fund managed by M&G).
Anglian Water (includes Hartlepool Water) Overseas

Osprey Acquisitions Limited - a consortium of several companies based in the UK, US and Canada

Bristol Water Overseas Split between Canada-based Capstone Infrastructure, Spain-based Grupo Agbar and Japan-based Itochu Corporation
Cambridge Water Overseas Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
Cholderton and District Water British Independent water company
Dee Valley Water


Independent water company
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water British UK-based Glas Cymru
Essex and Suffolk Water Overseas Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
Northern Ireland Water British Government-owned company
Northumbrian Water Overseas Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings
Portsmouth Water British UK-based South Downs Capital Ltd
Scottish Water British Government-owned company
Sembcorp Bournemouth Water (formerly Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water) Overseas Singapore-based Sembcorp
Severn Trent Water


Severn Trent Plc
South East Water Overseas Canada-based CDPQ and Australia-based Utilities Trust of Australia
South Staffs Water Overseas US-based KKR
South West Water British UK-based Pennon Group
Southern Water British UK-based Southern Water Capital Limited
Sutton and East Surrey Water British UK-based East Surrey Holdings Limited
Thames Water Overseas Australia-based Kemble Water Holdings Ltd, part of the Macquarie group
United Utilities British Independent water company
Wessex Water


Malaysia-based YTL Corporation
Yorkshire Water Overseas Citigroup, HSBC, and Singapore-based GIC

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Who really owns our water companies?

Of course with all these things, the value it adds depends on the property you have to start with, and the kinds of improvements you make, but Which? estimates the cost of a new kitchen at £8,000 and HSBC calculates the added value to your property at £4,500 - which is a clear loss.

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While 63% of the HSBC survey expert respondents said that repainting or varnishing a front door would make a difference, only 23% of homeowners recognised this. Peter Dockar at HSBC said: "It is often the smaller jobs like painting the front door that can make all the difference when looking for a sale."

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