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Almost three-quarters of England’s water industry owned by foreign firms, study finds

The GMB union has found that 71% of shareholders in England's privatised water industry are based overseas - including some in tax havens - in a study produced for its Take Back the Tap renationalisation campaign

More than 70% of England’s water industry is owned by foreign firms, according to a trade union study.

As part of its Take Back the Tap campaign, GMB found that about 71% of shares in privatised water companies were owned by overseas companies - including firms based in tax havens, hedge funds and foreign governments.

It argued that Environment Secretary Michael Gove would renationalise water companies if he was serious about “taking back control”.

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

“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.

“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: Foreign owners of English water industry includes hedge funds and tax haven firms

The GMB union came to the 71% foreign ownership figure by sifting through company accounts.

GMB has taken its figures from company accounts belonging to firms such as Deutsche Bank, Blackrock and Corsair Capital.

The union claimed that leading foreign investors in the UK water industry included Wessex Water owner and Malaysian company YTL corporation, the Cheung Kong Group (majority owner of Northumbrian Water) and several US hedge funds.

Its study follows similar pieces of research for the Take Back the Tap campaign, which has also found that private water company chief executives received £58m in pay and rewards over the last five years.

These payouts came in spite of 2.4 billion litres of water being wasted through leakages.

GMB has also claimed that water bills have risen 40% above inflation since the industry was privatised by the Thatcher government in 1989.

The union measured investor ownership in individual companies in line with water sector regulator Ofwat’s estimation of their value.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been contacted for a response to the GMB study.