Northumbrian Water in Hong Kong takeover deal
2 August 2011
Northumbrian supplies water in the north east of England
Northumbrian Water has agreed a £2.41bn takeover deal with a Hong Kong based investment consortium controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.
Based in Durham, Northumbrian supplies water in the north-east of England. It also owns Essex & Suffolk Water.
As part of the deal, Mr Li’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) would sell Cambridge Water to HSBC.
The plan is backed by Northumbrian’s largest shareholder, the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund.
The fund owns 27% of Northumbrian’s shares and has promised not to launch a rival bid.
Directors at Northumbrian say they intend to recommend that shareholders vote in favour of the deal, which values Northumbrian at 465p per share.
Mr Li is the world’s 11th richest man and is commonly known as “Superman” in Hong Kong for his entrepreneurial and deal-making skills.
He controls global giant Hutchinson Whampoa, owning almost half the shares.
Hutchinson owns the UK’s Three mobile network and Mr Li’s infrastructure division – CKI.
The consortium buying Northumbrian – UK Water – is led by CKI and includes Mr Li’s charitable foundation.
Billionaire chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Li Ka-shing
Li Ka-shing is known as ‘Superman’ in Hong Kong for his deal-making skills
CKI is Hong Kong’s largest infrastructure company and has holdings in water and power generation around the world.
In the UK, it already owns UK Power Networks, the electricity transmission network in London and the South East, gas distributor Northern Gas Networks and a 50% stake in Seabank Power.
It is selling Cambridge Water to avoid competition issues with the deal. It has a 4.75% stake in Southern water.
In addition to Hong Kong and the UK, it has investments in mainland China, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Philippines.
In June, Northumbrian reported a 6.3% rise in full-year profits for the year to the end of March.
Its pre-tax profits for the 12 months totalled £181m, compared with £170m a year earlier, and the company said the increase was due in part to higher water and sewerage charges.
Its main business provides water and sewerage services to 2.6 million people in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and parts of North Yorkshire.
Essex & Suffolk Water supplies 1.8 million people in the south-east of England.
CKI sought to reassure existing staff about the takeover.
“Northumbrian has an excellent reputation in the UK water sector. We attach great importance to the skills and experience of existing management and employees,” said CKI director HL Kam.