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UK's biggest water supplier piles on debt

By AFP - Jul 10,2024 - Last updated at Jul 10,2024

The Thames Water Long Reach sewage treatment facility in East London, United Kingdom (AFP file photo)

LONDON — Britain's embattled Thames Water on Tuesday said its debt continues to rise despite increased revenues, leaving the group with cash reserves taking it through only until May next year.

 Britain's biggest water supplier avoided a state rescue under the previous Conservative government, leaving the newly-elected Labour administration to decide whether taxpayers should renationalise the company. 

Thames said that debt increased around nine per cent to nearly £15.25 billion ($19.5 billion) in the year to the end of March.

Britain's water regulator is on Thursday due to respond to a five-year business plan laid out by UK water companies including Thames, which on Tuesday said it had sufficient liquid funds of £1.8 billion — enough to see it through until May 2025.

 "The challenges we face are well documented," Chief Executive Chris Weston said in the results statement.

 "But our operational and financial performance for the last year show good progress, and these positive results provide the right foundations on which to build and improve." 

 Thames on Tuesday said its last financial year saw record investment — up 18 per cent at £2.1 billion — to improve "ageing" infrastructure.

 It was helped by a 10-per cent rise in revenue to £2.4 billion as customers paid more for their water.

 The company, which supplies around 16 million homes and businesses in London and elsewhere in southern England, has missed targets to reduce leaks and slash sewage discharges into rivers, despite the major investment.

 Environmentalists have increasingly voiced outrage at the rise in pollution on the UK's beaches and waterways, and have pointed the finger at privatised water companies.

 The new Labour government waded into the debate Tuesday after bringing an end to 14 years of Conservative rule in last week's general election.

 Communities minister Jim McMahon said there was "no programme of nationalisation for the water industry" should Thames Water collapse.

 But he added: "The days of putting shareholder interest above the national interest, frankly, can't carry on and so we do need to look at that and Thames do need to look at their own house and get it in order."


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