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Thames Water concerns: ‘Absolutely nothing’ will happen with customers’ bills, says minister | Politics News

Thames Water customers have been assured that “absolutely nothing” will happen to their bills or supply, as the heavily indebted firm scrambles to raise cash from investors to prevent its collapse.

Ministers have continued efforts to reassure the public as Britain’s biggest water firm struggles under a £14bn debt pile, with the government said to be laying the groundwork for the firm’s emergency nationalisation.

Health minister Neil O’Brien told Sky News: “They are still in the process of finding further resources from their own shareholders and that’s the first place they should look to, obviously.

“Of course the government does have contingency plans if this does become a problem.”

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Mr O’Brien refused to say if the utility firm could be taken into public ownership as a last resort, insisting he was “not able” to reveal what the contingency plans are.

But in a message to Thames Water customers he said that whatever the outcome: “Absolutely nothing is going to happen in terms of either their bills or their access to water, we have contingency plans – like we do in all of these network utilities – to manage any difficult situations.”

On Wednesday, Thames Water said it was working “constructively” with shareholders to secure extra cash.

The company, which serves 15 million households, said that it needs “further equity funding” on top of the £500m it raised just three months ago.

The statement came after Sky News revealed the government is discussing placing Thames Water into a special administration regime (SAR) that would effectively take the company into temporary public ownership if it collapses.

Such an insolvency process is rare and was used when the energy supplier Bulb collapsed in 2021, sparking concerns that it could cost taxpayers billions of pounds.

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Rebecca Pow, the water minister, did not say how much a government bailout could cost when pressed on the matter by Labour in the Commons.

She insisted the water sector as a whole is “financially resilient” and the government is confident that Ofwat is “working closely with any company that would be facing financial stress”.

Thames Water

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However, several reports on Thursday suggested concerns about Thames Water’s finances had now broadened to other firms in the industry.

And Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, admitted she is “very concerned” by the situation.

Thames Water – owned by a consortium of pension funds and sovereign wealth funds – has come under pressure in recent years over its poor performance in tackling leaks and sewage contamination, while facing criticism for handing out big rewards to top bosses and shareholders.

On Tuesday, Thames Water chief executive Sarah Bentley stepped down with immediate effect amid mounting worries over the financial stability of the company and criticism of her £1.6m pay packet despite the company’s environmental performance.

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