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NEWS: Will the CPP invest more in private water in Europe?

The Globe and Mail reports, “The money managers behind the Canada Pension Plan are optimistic they’ll find some of their best investment opportunities in Europe in the coming months. While the uncertainty stemming from Greece and the sovereign debt crisis has weighed on both stocks and bonds, it’s also stirring up good deals for brave investors, suggests David Denison, the chief executive of the CPP Investment Board.”

Denison says, “One of our advantages is that we’re a multigenerational plan. We can look beyond what might happen over the next 18 months and make good investments that will prove themselves out over five, 10 or 20 years. So Europe is, we believe, going to yield those kinds of opportunities for us.”

The Council of Canadians calls on the CPPIB to stop investing in private water in Europe, and trusts that the ‘investment opportunities’ Mr. Denison refers to do not include public water utilities in Greece or in other European countries.

In June, the Guardian UK and the Washington Post reported that – due to austerity measures – 40 percent of state-owned Thessaloniki Water could be sold to investors, as well as a 27 percent share in state-owned Athens Water. Global Water Intelligencer reported on Eurobank analyst Katerina Zaharopoulou suggesting the implementation of a wastewater tariff and the integration of outlying municipalities into the Athens Water water supply network to take full advantage of retail water pricing structures would make these state assets more attractive to strategic investors.

The CPPIB has already invested in private water in England. A recent Guardian UK op-ed criticized the privatization of water utilities in England. Neil Clark wrote, “Water privatisation was arguably the most ideologically extreme of all the Conservative sell-offs of the 80s and 90s.” The Canada Pension Plan owns one-third of Anglian Water Services, which sells water services to approximately six million people in England and posted a profit of $507 million last year. Clark argues, “Bringing water back into public ownership in England – which could be done by the government simply nationalising the existing companies and establishing a new publicly owned body named ‘English Water’, would not only lead to lower prices, but would be a move of great significance. …Water, which falls out of the sky for free and which everyone needs, was obscenely commodified by the Thatcherites. You don’t even have to be a Marxist to agree that there is something fundamentally wrong about water being sold off in order for global conglomerates to make even more profits from hard-pressed ordinary people.”

This March, the Council of Canadians – in partnership with the Public Service International Research Unit, the European Public Services Union, Food and Water Europe, and other groups – will be releasing a report on austerity measures and the implementation of the UN-recognized human right to water and sanitation in Europe. The report will be presented to UN special rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque during the World Water Forum in Marseilles, France.

In other campaign blogs we have noted:

– Transelec – the Chilean company believed most likely to build the controversial HidroAysen transmission line in Patagonia, Chile – is controlled by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Brookfield Asset Management, and the British Columbia Investment Management Corp.
– The Canada Pension Plan has $256 million worth of shares in Goldcorp, the Vancouver-based mining corporation that operates the highly-destructive Marlin mine in Guatemala.
– The Canada Pension Plan made a $250 million investment in Calgary-based Laricina Energy Ltd., a company that has a substantial portfolio of assets in the Alberta tar sands including in the McMurray formation as well as sites near Grand Rapids and Grosmont.