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Canadian deal to boost water giant.

Byline: By Daniel Cochlin

Northumbrian Water last night received a pounds 260m boost after a Canadian pension firm bought a 25pc stake in the company.

The move, to be announced to the Stock Exchange today, follows a series of hastily-arranged meetings after French company Suez, which used to own Northumbrian Water, announced it was selling the last of its shares.

Ontario Teachers ( which manages the pensions of 255,000 retired and current teachers ( snapped up the shares.

The move has delighted managers at Northumbrian Water, as it means they can look at new ways of improving services for their customers across the North-East.

Suez bought Northumbrian Water in 1995, but in January 2003 sold 75pc of the firm to the current owners.

They retained a 25pc stake, but yesterday told bosses at Northumbrian of the deal with Ontario Teachers.

Northumbrian Water, which employs 2,200 staff, provides water and sewerage services to 4.3 million people.

Managing director John Cuthbert admitted he was thrilled the Canadian firm had decided to invest.

He added: "We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Suez and are delighted Ontario Teachers have shown such confidence in our company.

"It's pleasing to see they have the focus of the company and the commitment they have given us."

Analysts last night hailed the move as an excellent one for the North-East firm, saying it proved water companies were good investments.

Campbell Maclachlan[both corr], investment manager at Newcastle-based stockbrokers Wise Speke, said: "Following the Ofwat pricing review into the water sector, it has been very much the place to be.

"It's good news for Northumbrian Water and shows that water companies continue to be sound investments."

Ontario Teachers Senior Vice President Jim Leech said: "We are interested in making long-term investments in the water sector and we are delighted to become a significant shareholder in Northumbrian.

"As a shareholder in Northumbrian, we intend to support fully the company and its continuing progress as an independent leading water and sewerage company in the United Kingdom."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 22, 2005
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