The consumer organisation Which? says water bills have risen by 64 per cent in the past ten years, even before the average rise of 3.5 per cent in April this year – Thames Water leading the pack with a hike of 5.5 per cent. Wessex Water, owned by a Malaysian power company, had the biggest price rise over the decade – 83 per cent.
Only 38 per cent of the average bill is the cost of supplying water. About a third goes to replacing fixed assets such as pipes and sewers and associated finance costs. The rest is profit.
Which? has also found that increasingly our water companies are foreign-controlled. Anglian Water is owned by private equity firm 3i and Australian and Canadian pension and infrastructure funds; Southern Water by an Australian pension fund, a US infrastructure fund UBS and a Hong Kong investment fund.
Northumbrian Water is effectively owned by Hong Kong-based tycoon Li Ka-shing, who in October also bought gas supplier Wales and West Utilities, which provides gas for a quarter of Britain’s homes. Thames Water’s shareholders include an Australian bank and the sovereign investment funds of China Corporation and Abu Dhabi. Yorkshire Water is part owned by the Singapore Government Investment Corporation and Deutsche Bank.
In contrast Welsh water supplier Glas Cymru has no shareholders, and issues bonds and uses its profits to fund investment. ■