Thames Water close to announcing new boss as profits spring a leak

Thames Water has a “very high quality” shortlist of candidates in the hunt for a new chief executive, months after former boss Steve Robertson left.

The company also revealed that it has swung into a loss in the three months to September, from a profit last year, as it invested in plugging leaks.

Mr Robertson was reportedly sacked after criticism from regulator Ofwat for its handling of the Beast from the East, its business plan and its record on fixing leaks.

Finance director Brandon Rennet said the company has a list of candidates, and he hopes it will make an announcement in “the very near future”.

Thames Water has been cracking down on leaks, hitting its biggest reduction in 20 years. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

“The board conducted a very thorough search and as you could imagine, it’s such an important goal given what we do that we’ve ended up with a very high quality shortlist,” he told the PA news agency, but declined to reveal how many candidates were on it.

Earlier this month, Sky News reported that Thames Water has identified Basil Scarsella, the boss of UK Power Networks, as its preferred candidate.

Whoever takes on the business will benefit from fewer leaks from the company’s old pipes as it mended 1,400 each week. This has slashed leakage by 11% year on year in the six months to September.

On the other hand the new boss could face a tough battle to convince Ofwat of the soundness of Thames Water’s next five-year plan.

The company was told to go back to the drawing board earlier this year, one of 14 water firms whose business plans were failed by the regulator.

It has now reduced its initial proposals to spend £11.7 billion between 2020 and 2025. However the £10 billion Thames Water has requested to spend, which it passes on to customers through their bills, is still higher than Ofwat’s draft determination of £9.3 billion. The amount would not raise bills, Thames Water stressed.

Mr Rennet said that the £9.3 billion spend would allow the company to continue its operations as usual but leave little room for investment in its old infrastructure. Ofwat is set to make a final decision in December.

“We are hoping that Ofwat will agree that we’ve got the right content, the right focus on improving performance across the board for our customers while stretching ourselves hard. But obviously we just need to wait and see what the regulator ultimately makes of it,” he said.

It came as Thames Water said it had invested almost £600 million in water and waste services to improve resilience.

Revenue increased by around £100 million to £1.1 billion, while the company swung into a £54 million loss before tax, down from a £42 million profit in the same period last year.

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