GMB calls for renationalisation of water companies

The GMB has called for the renationalisation of the Britain’s water companies after claiming that almost three quarters of the sector is currently owned by foreign companies.

According to the trade union, at least 71% of shares in England’s nine privatised water companies are owned by organisations from overseas.

The figures come from a new investigation into company accounts as part of GMB’s Take Back the Tap Campaign.

Last week, shadow chancellor John McDonnell announced to the Labour Party ‘s annual conference in Liverpool he would end the profiteering of privatised water and set up a new publicly- owned water system that puts control back in the hands of the people.

Some of the leading overseas owners of England’s privatised water companies include:

  • Malaysian company YTL Corporation Berhad which owns all of Wessex Water
  • Cheung Kong Group, a multinational registered in the Cayman Islands run by family of Li Ka Shing (Hong Kong’s richest person). They own 80% of Northumbrian Water.
  • S. hedge funds Blackrock, Lazard and Vanguard each own a stake in Severn Trent, United Utilities and South West Water
  • Between Germany’s Deutsche Asset Management and US private equity company Corsair Capital own half of Yorkshire Water
  • 40% of Southern Water is owned by US investment company JP Morgan Asset Management
  • A third of Thames Water is owned by investment fund companies from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, China and Australia
  • Australia’s Colonial First State Global Asset Management owns a stake in Anglian Water, Severn Trent, United Utilities and South West Water

‘It’s a scandal that the supply of water that falls from England’s skies is in fact now overwhelmingly owned by overseas profiteers,’ said GMB general secretary, Tim Roache.

‘If Michael Gove is serious about taking back control, he will end the water privatisation rip-off racket and put water back in public hands,’ added Mr Roache.

‘Every time we turn on the tap big businesses around the globe are making money at our expense. The spivs and speculators must be laughing at us as they make billions in profits while our water bills go up and leakages go unfixed.

‘This is yet another damning example of a failed privatisation experiment. GMB is campaigning to Take Back the Tap and return England’s water to its rightful owners – the public.’

A Water UK spokesperson said: ‘The ownership model in England’s water industry has provided £150bn of investment since the 1990s, helping to cut leakage by a third and improve services for consumers.

‘The latest proposals from water companies show a planned £50bn of investment between 2020 and 2025. If the industry was placed under state ownership, it would risk losing this essential funding to other vital services such as the NHS and education.’


Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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