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Representatives of Thames Water’s multinational syndicate of shareholders are poised to quit as directors of its corporate entities after refusing to inject the billions of pounds of funding required to bail it out.

Sky News has learnt that a number of board members at companies connected to Kemble Water Finance, Thames’s parent, are expected to resign in the coming days.

City sources described the move as “the logical next step” after the owners of Britain’s biggest water utility said they would not commit more than £3bn to help upgrade its ageing infrastructure and shore up its debt-laden balance sheet.

A default on part of Thames Water‘s holding company debts last month has raised the prospect that the company is heading towards special administration, a form of insolvency that would effectively leave the government liable for managing a utility firm which serves nearly a quarter of Britain’s population.

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Thames Water under threat

Thames Water is owned by a group of sovereign wealth funds and pension funds from countries including Abu Dhabi, Australia, Britain, Canada and China.

A number of the investors are represented on boards which sit at various points in the group’s labyrinthine capital structure.

It was unclear on Wednesday whether Michael McNicholas, a representative of the giant Canadian pension fund Omers and who sits on the board of Thames Water Utilities Limited, was among those in the process of stepping down.

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Along with the rest of the privately owned water industry, Thames Water faces a crucial moment next month when Ofwat, the industry regulator, publishes its draft determination on companies’ five-year business plans.

The draft rulings will be subject to negotiation before final versions are published in December.

Thames Water and a spokesman for Kemble declined to comment.

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Business

Record profits at Ryanair after costs rise – but ticket price cuts could be on the way

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Record profits at Ryanair after costs rise - but ticket price cuts could be on the way

Ryanair has reported another year of record profits and passenger numbers.

The average fare at the airline, which is Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, was 21% more expensive than 12 months earlier, its annual results showed.

But the company suggested a cut in ticket prices could be on the way after this summer when prices will either be the same or more expensive than last year.

Annual profits reached €1.92bn (£1.64bn), surpassing the previous record of €1.45bn (£1.26bn) made in the year ending March 2018.

Passenger numbers also outpaced previous all-time highs and are now well above pre-pandemic numbers at 184 million – a rise of 23% on the pre-COVID year of 2019.

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Ticket prices

Those passengers paid fares costing an average of 21% more than the year up to March 2023 but Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary said if the company has to cut fares to have planes 94% full next April, May and June “then so be it”.

While demand is “strong” for summer flights and its summer schedule will operate over 200 new routes, the low-cost carrier said it remained “cautiously optimistic that peak summer 2024 fares will be flat to modestly ahead of last summer”.

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Boeing headwinds

The passenger increase has come despite Boeing‘s delays in delivering new planes to the airline.

Ryanair had staked a large part of its financial success on expansion through 300 new 737 MAX 10 aircraft.

But the plane manufacturer has been beset by delays amid regulatory and media scrutiny of safety at its manufacturing sites after a door blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet.

There’s a risk those delays “could slip further”, Mr O’Leary said.

But Ryanair said it would receive “modest compensation” from Boeing for the delays.

The no-frills carrier also said its fuel bill rose 32% to €5.14bn (£4.4bn).

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Getir quits UK with multimillion pound Tottenham Hotspur debt

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Getir quits UK with multimillion pound Tottenham Hotspur debt

Getir, the grocery delivery app which this month confirmed plans to exit the UK, has an outstanding debt to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club running to millions of pounds.

Sky News understands that Turkey-based Getir, whose three-year training kit sponsorship deal with Spurs expired at the end of the Premier League season on Sunday, owes close to £5m to the club.

News of the outstanding debt comes as Getir tries to access a tranche of agreed funding from major investors Mubadala and G Squared to help facilitate its withdrawal from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

It was unclear this weekend whether the delivery app, which means “to bring” in Turkish, has the means to settle its financial obligations to Spurs.

The company once attained a valuation of almost £10bn, but has been forced by its deteriorating finances to retrench back to its home market, in the process axing thousands of jobs.

Its withdrawal from the UK has put about 1,500 jobs at risk, Sky News revealed earlier this month.

Companies such as Getir were big winners during the pandemic, attracting funding at astronomical valuations.

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Its decline highlights the slumping valuations of technology companies once-hailed as the new titans of food retailing.

Many of its rivals have already gone bust, while others have been swallowed up as part of a desperate wave of consolidation.

Getir itself bought Gorillas in a $1.2bn stock-based deal that closed in December 2022.

Getir and Tottenham Hotspur both declined to comment.

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe scolds Tories over handling of economy and immigration after Brexit

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe scolds Tories over handling of economy and immigration after Brexit

Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has told Sky News that Britain is ready for a change of government after scolding the Conservatives over their handling of the economy and immigration after Brexit.

While insisting his petrochemicals conglomerate INEOS is apolitical, Sir Jim backed Brexit and spent last weekend with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Manchester United – the football club he now runs as minority owner.

“I’m sure Keir will do a very good job at running the country – I have no questions about that,” Sir Jim said in an exclusive interview.

“There’s no question that the Conservatives have had a good run,” he added. “I think most of the country probably feels it’s time for a change. And I sort of get that, really.”

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Sir Jim was a prominent backer of leaving the European Union in the 2016 referendum but now has issues with how Brexit was delivered by Tory prime ministers.

“Brexit sort of unfortunately didn’t turn out as people anticipated because… Brexit was largely about immigration,” Sir Jim said.

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“That was the biggest component of that vote. People were getting fed up with the influx of the city of Southampton coming in every year. I think last year it was two times Southampton.

“I mean, no small island like the UK could cope with vast numbers of people coming into the UK.

“I mean, it just overburdens the National Health Service, the traffic service, the police, everybody.

“The country was designed for 55 or 60 million people and we’ve got 70 million people and all the services break down as a consequence.

“That’s what Brexit was all about and nobody’s implemented that. They just keep talking about it. But nothing’s been done, which is why I think we’ll finish up with the change of government.”

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UK needs to get ‘sharper on the business front’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated an election is due this year but Monaco-based Sir Jim is unimpressed by the Conservatives’ handling of the economy.

“The UK does need to get a bit sharper on the business front,” he said. “I think the biggest objective for the government is to create growth in the economy.

“There’s two parts of the economy, there’s the services side of the economy and there’s the manufacturing side. And the manufacturing, unfortunately, has been sliding away now for the last 25 years.

“We were very similar in scale to Germany probably 25 years ago.

“But today we’re just a fraction of where Germany is and I think that isn’t healthy for the British economy… particularly when you think the north of England is very manufacturing based, and that talks to things like energy competitiveness, it talks to things like, why do you put an immensely high tax on the North Sea?

“That just disincentivises people from finding hydrocarbons in the North Sea, in energy.

“And what we need is competitive energy. So I mean, in America, in the energy world, in the oil and gas world, they just apply a corporation tax to the oil and gas companies, which is about 30%. And in the UK we’ve got this tax of 75% because we want to kill off the oil and gas companies.

“But if we don’t have competitive energy, we’re not going to have a healthy manufacturing industry. And that just makes no sense to me at all. No.”

‘We’re apolitical’

Asked about INEOS donating to Labour, Sir Jim replied: “We’re apolitical, INEOS.

“We just want a successful manufacturing sector in the UK and we’ve talked to the government about that. It’s pretty clear about our views.”

Sir Jim was keener to talk about the economy and politics than his role at struggling Manchester United, which he bought a 27.7% stake in from the American Glazer family in February – giving him an even higher business profile.

Old Trafford stadium in Manchester. Pic: AP
Image:
Old Trafford stadium in Manchester. Pic: AP

Push for stadium of the North

He is continuing to push for public funds to regenerate Old Trafford and the surrounding areas despite no apparent political support being forthcoming. Sir Keir was hosted at the stadium for a Premier League match last weekend just as heavy rain exposed the fragility of the ageing venue.

“There’s a very good case, in my view, for having a stadium of the North, which would serve the northern part of the country in that arena of football,” Sir Jim said. “If you look at the number of Champions League the North West has won, it’s 10. London has won two.

“And yet everybody from the North has to get down to London to watch a big football match. And there should be one [a large stadium] in the North, in my view.

“But it’s also important for the southern side of Manchester, you know, to regenerate.

“It’s the sort of second capital of the country where the Industrial Revolution began.

“But if you have a regeneration project, you need a nucleus or a regeneration project and having that world-class stadium there, I think would provide the impetus to regenerate that region.”

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