'Superman' Li's Northumbrian Water tonic

The Hong Kong-based billionaire and business "superman" Li Ka-Shing has made an indicative cash offer for Northumbrian Water, the company said yesterday.

If the deal goes ahead, it will add the FTSE 250-listed water supplier to a growing list of British assets bought by the octogenerian entrepreneur's sprawling property-to-infrastructure-to-retail conglomerate in recent years.

Yesterday's statement from Northumbrian Water confirmed the speculation that has swirled around the company all week, pushing its shares up more than 13 per cent. The stock rose by another 1.5 per cent to close at 422p last night.

The first hint of an approach sent the stock soaring on Monday, when Mr Li's Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) made a statement confirming that it was "in the preliminary stages" of assessing a "potential cash offer". But Northumbrian claimed to have no knowledge of the matter, stating unequivocally it had "not received any proposal which could result in an offer or possible offer for the company".

As the days passed with no further clarification, one local MP, Kevan Jones, berated CKI for leaving Northumbrian Water's 3,000 staff "in the dark" about their futures, even as others expressed concern that a foreign owner would not understand the North-east's desperate need for local, private-sector jobs.

But Northumbrian announced yesterday that is had received a non-binding indicative proposal from CKI regarding a possible cash offer, although with the usual disclaimer that there was no certainty that an offer would be made. So far, there is no detail available about the bid for the group, which has a market capitalisation of £2.2bn and debts of £2.3bn.

Northumbrian Water's major shareholder is the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, whose 26.7 per cent holding is key to any deal. Options being discussed by City analysts include CKI taking over the remaining 73.3 per cent not held by Ontario. Although CKI is the first formal bidder for Northumbrian, its shares have risen more than 40 per cent since February thanks to the takeover talk. The company's most recent accounts, at the start of this month, detailed annual revenues up by 4.7 per cent to £738m as profits soared by 6.3 per cent.

Mr Li – the world's 11th-richest man on the Forbes Rich List – already has a significant presence in Britain through both CKI and its vast sister group, Hutchison Whampoa, which is active in retail, infrastructure, telecommunications and ports. CKI already owns Cambridge Water and holds 4.75 per cent of Southern Water.

Northumbrian Water provides water and sewage services to 2.6 million people in the North-east of England, and a further 1.8 million in East Anglia through Essex & Suffolk Water.

Tycoon's British assets

*Li Ka-Shing's interest in Northumbrian Water comes just a year after his Cheung Kong Infrastructure group paid £5.8bn for French electricity giant EDF's 100,000 miles of British power networks.

CKI also owns 50 per cent of the Seabank Power station near Bristol, 47 per cent of Northern Gas Networks (with a further 41 per cent owned by Power Assets, which CKI also part-owns), all of Cambridge Water and a 4.75 per cent stake in Southern Water.

Mr Li's Hutchison Whampoa group owns the 3 mobile phone network; London property including Chelsea's Lots Road power station, Belgravia Place and the Albion Riverside; the retail chains Savers, Superdrug and The Perfume Shop and major ports at Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam