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Thames Water appoints new chief executive

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Thames Water has appointed Chris Weston, former head of power supplier Aggreko, as its chief executive, as the UK’s biggest water utility faces scrutiny over its financial health.

Weston was previously at Centrica, where he was managing director of international downstream and served on the board and executive committee. A former member of the army, he holds a doctorate and masters in business administration from Imperial College London. He replaces Cathryn Ross and Alastair Cochran, who had been interim co-CEOs.

Thames launched a three-year turnaround plan this month as it recorded a 54 per cent fall in pre-tax profit to £246mn for the six months to September 30.

Britain’s largest water distributor is seeking to raise equity of £2.5bn from shareholders in the coming years, in addition to £750mn already pledged. The equity is subject to bill increases that need to be approved by the regulator, Ofwat.

Thames is facing more than £1bn in debt repayments by the end of 2024. This includes a £190mn facility in its parent company Kemble Water maturing in April, according to its accounts published in November.

Weston said he would be “focused on delivering the turnaround that the business has outlined and improving performance over the next few years”.

Martin Young, analyst at Investec, said Thames had done “one of the things it had to do given the multitude of challenges”. “It’s a small step in the right direction,” he added.

Former chief executive Sarah Bentley left the company in June after a boardroom row, prompting government ministers to discuss a temporary nationalisation of the utility that provides water to about 25 per cent of the population of England.

Bentley had been struggling to improve a company with a long legacy of under-investment and £14bn in debt.

Thames chair Sir Adrian Montague said Weston was taking over at “a crucial period of delivering our refocused turnaround plan and providing the service that customers rightly expect of us”.

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