Thames Water brings in Forbes to lead flotation

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Thames Water, the company embroiled in controversy for missing its leakage targets at the same time as requesting a drought order, has appointed the former utility boss Jim Forbes to lead its planned flotation later this year.

Mr Forbes, the former chief executive of the energy group Scottish & Southern, is to become chairman of Thames from the beginning of next month. He succeeds Harry Roels, the chief executive of Thames' parent company, RWE of Germany, who previously combined the two roles.

A blunt-speaking Scot, Mr Forbes was renowned for his fierce and sometimes withering dismissal of the competition during his time at Scottish & Southern. This is Mr Forbes' second attempt to lead a utility company back on to the stock market. Two years ago he was made chairman of CGE Power, a company created by two investment banks, Lazards and Greenhill, to buy up loss-making UK power stations. The intention was to float CGE, which would have been one of the biggest generators in the country, but the plan collapsed after the power stations were sold to rival energy companies.

Mr Forbes may yet fail to lead Thames back on to the London stock market. Although RWE is pursuing a flotation as its preferred option, it remains open to offers from private equity firms and trade buyers, a number of whom are thought to be contemplating bids, including Guy Hands' Terra Firma, CKI and Macquarie.

Thames, Britain's biggest water supplier with eight million customers, is facing the threat of a fine of up to £140m after it missed its leakage reduction target for the fourth year in succession.