Southern Water 74% ‘owned by foreign companies’

Southern Water 74% owned by foreign companies

The GMB trades union is urging the government to ‘take back control’ of the nation’s water supplies after revealing that Southern Water is 74% owned by ‘foreign companies’.

Southern Water was privatised 30 years ago and now – according to the GMB- it is owned by shareholders in Hong Kong, Switzerland, Australia and the US:

  • 40% owned by a US investment fund
  • 22% owned by UBS Bank, in Switzerland
  • 5% owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure and Li Ka Shing Foundation in Hong Kong
  • 8% owned by a pension fund in Australia
  • A further 5% owned by an infrastructure investment company from an unknown location

The union has described privatisation of water services as a “scandal” claiming that £6.5 Billion has been paid out in dividends to shareholders in the past five years while UK consumer’s water bills have risen by 40% above inflation since 1989.


Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Pic: courtesy Guy Phillips, Bitterne Park info

The GMB – who are running a campaign to ‘Take back the Tap’ have praised Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell for pledging to 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.”

In a Press release Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary called for the re-nationalisation of the water industry saying:

“It is a scandal that the water that falls from England’s skies is in fact now overwhelmingly owned by overseas profiteers.

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.”

Earlier this month the Michael Roberts, the Chief Executive of Water UK –  the body that represents the UK’s water providers – said that in the 30 years since privatisation water companies had invested over £150 billion in the sector, adding:

“The water industry has come a long way since privatisation in 1989, and customers are now five times less likely to have interrupted water supplies, eight times less likely to suffer sewer flooding, and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure.

The business plans that companies have put forward for 2020 to 2025 propose an extra £50 billion of investment, which would see the service improved even further.”