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Teachers to expand ownership of UK water utility

The Globe and Mail reports that, “Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is eyeing a larger stake in an English water utility that first caught its eye five years ago.”

“The pension fund is said to be preparing a $2.7-billion bid for the three-quarters of Northumbrian Water Group PLC it does not already own.”

“Northumbrian supplies water and waster water services in England, providing sewerage services to 2.6 million people in England’s northeast and water to 1.7 million in the southeast. In its last six-month reporting period, the company posted a $148-million profit.”

“Teachers first became interested in Northumbrian in 2005… The fund said it was interested in ‘long-term investments in the water sector’…”

In 1988, the British government under Margaret Thatcher privatized its ten regional water authorities.

Public Citizen reports that, “On average, prices rose by over 50% in the first 4 years…The real value of the fees, salaries and bonuses paid to the director’s increased between 50% and 200% in most water companies…The profits of the 10 water companies rose 147% between 1990 and 1997…The disconnection rate tripled in the first five years, with 18,636 households disconnected in 1994…(And) in 1998, the major water companies in the UK were ranked as the second, third and fourth-worst polluters…” In 2005, water companies were ranked as the worst polluters in the United Kingdom.

On page 125 of Blue Gold, Maude Barlow writes, “Between 1989 and 1997, Anglian, Northumbrian, Severn Trent, Wessex, and Yorkshire Water were successfully prosecuted 128 times for violations ranging from water leakages to illegal sewage disposals.”

The British newspaper The Daily Mail stated in July 1994 that, “…The water industry has become the biggest rip-off in Britain. Water bills, both to households and industry, have soared. And the directors and shareholders of Britain’s top ten water companies have been able to use their position as monopoly suppliers to pull off the greatest act of licensed robbery in our history.”

The Council of Canadians is also calling on the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan to divest its ownership of private, for-profit water utilities in Chile.