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Pennon, SouthWestWater and what to invest in

  • by JW

Following on from “high levels of debt and underinvestment leading to sewage pollution, water shortages and leaks” [Guardian, on a report from 20 years ago]


The Exeter-based Pennon Group has been revealed as the fourth largest company in the South West, with a turnover of £0.8bn: REVEALED: Top 150 businesses in Devon and Cornwall 2023 – Business Live

The company owns South West Water – which has been in the news again, as covered by the financial investment community:

UK water companies have apologised for sewage spills into rivers and the seaside and promised to more than triple current levels of investment to £10bn for sewer improvements, though they want customers to pay for it. Water companies apologise for sewage spill issues, promise £10bn of investment

It’s not a straightforward business for investors to determine the ‘value’ of such a company: Calculating The Intrinsic Value Of Pennon Group Plc (LON:PNN) and Can Pennon Group Plc (LON:PNN) Maintain Its Strong Returns?

And the opinions from financial circles are mixed: Pennon Group (LON:PNN) shareholders have endured a 18% loss from investing in the stock three years ago – Simply Wall St News and With 80% institutional ownership, Pennon Group Plc (LON:PNN) is a favorite amongst the big guns – Simply Wall St News

This is a private equity company – and as such, today’s Guardian looks back at a report from two decades ago:

Ministers were warned about the dangers of private equity taking over the water industry in a briefing that has been kept secret for 20 years, the Guardian can reveal. It was prepared for the Competition Commission (now the Competition and Markets Authority, CMA) in 2002 and has never been published in full. It should have been released under the 20-year rule last summer, but despite repeated attempts to have it published it is being kept secret. Today, as private equity dominates ownership of the water sector in England, bringing with it high levels of debt and underinvestment leading to sewage pollution, water shortages and leaks, the author of the report has called for full disclosure of his warning two decades ago.

Revealed: warning to ministers over privatised water kept secret since 2002 | Water | The Guardian

In the meantime, the company is going into PR overdrive: Pennon Group plc, Thames Water boss bonuses flushed following sewage outrage and Working with communities will help us tackle climate crisis, says Pennon boss – Devon Live

And in parallel, the news is not good in the valley next door: 

Whilst swimming beaches should not exceed 88 units of harmful E. coli per 100ml of water, the River Lim had 27,200 units – leading to no swimming signs being put up (Image: Graham Hunt/BNPS)

‘Beautiful’ UK river declared ‘ecologically dead’ after sewage spillages – Mirror Online