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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 22:12 GMT 23:12 UK
Thames Water to be sold for 8bn
Reports had suggested bids for the utility ranged from 7bn to 10bn
A consortium led by Australian investment fund Macquarie has won an auction to buy UK utility Thames Water.

Macquarie-led Kemble Water tabled an 8bn ($14.9bn) bid for Thames - owned by Germany's RWE - which represents a 20% premium on the group's value.

The bid is thought to have beaten one from Qatar's Investment Authority.

Macquarie has been on the acquisition trail recently and has been linked to bids for airports operator BAA and the London Stock Exchange.

Earlier this year, Macquarie successfully bought out the London bus operations of Stagecoach in a 263.6m deal.

RWE's supervisory board must now give its backing to the bid and its executives are expected to meet to discuss the offer over the weekend.

Once the deal is approved, Macquarie said it would deliver further information about the "transaction and its ambitions and plans for this important business".

'Debt question'

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston said that the big question now would revolve around how much debt Macquarie would run up on Thames.

"When Macquarie buys assets, it tends to load them up with borrowings," he said.

"Thames Water has a very big investment programme to implement and regulators will look to check that the debt on that programme to improve pipelines will be paid."

Thames Water supplies water to eight million people across London and the south of England, and provides sewage services to 13 million customers.

The group has drawn widespread criticism in recent months - particularly after it announced a 31% rise in pre-tax profits to 346.5m in June.

It attracted ire from regulators for missing its water leakage targets for the third time in a row, while consumers were angered by its decision to implement a hosepipe ban during the long, hot summer.

RWE, which also has interests in gas, electricity and recycling, bought Thames Water for 4.8bn in 2000.

What the purchase could mean for Thames Water customers

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