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The biggest water company in Britain has begun the process of recruiting investors to fund the construction of the new ‘supersewer’ in London, at an anticipated cost of £4 billion. It has been said that the company in question, Thames Water has bigwig investors from the likes of Abu Dhabi and China in its sights.
The new sewer is the largest investment since the waste network was built following the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858. The aim of the project is to prevent around 39 million tonnes of waste per year from entering the Thames River. Construction on the network is expected to begin in 2016 and finish in 2023. The managing director of Thames Water said that the way the company has devised of funding the project is a ‘groundbreaking financial model’ that is likely to be used worldwide.
Instead of funding the scheme from the company’s own finances, Thames Water is setting up a business that will own the tunnel outright and receive a licence from Ofwat, who is the water industry’s regulator. The company is likely to be owned by a group of sovereign or pension funds and will be responsible for raising bank debt and overseeing procurement.
If any investors are harbouring concerns about the risk whilst the network is being constructed, Thames Water aims to dispel this by stating that investors will earn over the seven year period of the sewer being built. This will be paid for by an 11% increase in customer’s utility bills, around £80 a year over the rest of the decade. Thames Water says that with this increase, customer bills will equal the national average.
It is believed that initial soundings indicated a strong competition, with a spokesperson for Thames Water describing it as a ‘keenly fought over opportunity’. The UK Government will act as an insurer for the project, bearing any exceptional cost that occurs during construction.