Ofwat has said that high levels of payments to bosses and investors by water companies have damaged customer trust.
In a number of changes to Ofwat’s 2019 price review (PR19), a range of measures have been included that would see customers share the financial gains made by water companies which have high levels of debt. The regulator also set out more details on the transparency expected around shareholder dividends and performance related executive pay in companies’ business plans for PR19. The consultation, which saw strong interest from a number of stakeholders, formed part of a programme of work to rebuild trust and confidence in the water sector announced by Ofwat’s Chief Executive Rachel Fletcher in her letter to all water company CEOs on 13 April.
Following the changes introduced by Ofwat, water companies will be required to:
- set out proposals to share benefits with customers where companies have gearing that is materially above the national level that underpins price controls;
- explain in business plans how dividend policies in 2020-25 take account of how companies deliver for customers over the price control period; and,
- set out transparently in business plans for customers and wider society, how performance related executive pay will reward stretching delivery for customers.
Ofwat will assess each company’s approach to benefit sharing in its initial assessment of each company’s business plan, all of which must be submitted by 3 September 2018. Where proposed sharing mechanisms do not share adequate benefits with customers, Ofwat will consider intervention at draft determination stage (April 2019).
Ofwat Chief Executive, Rachel Fletcher said “The decisions some water companies have made on dividends, financial structures and top executive pay have damaged customer trust. We have looked in detail at the incentives we give water companies. Through the measures we’ve announced today, we are strengthening the incentive on companies to improve their performance for customers and cutting the rewards that come from financial engineering. This is an important step in making sure water companies put customers’ interests and those of future generations, at the heart of all the decisions they take.”