UK regulators 'help keep down family bills'

The billionaire Malaysian owner of the utility that supplies water to 1.3m people in the South-west claims that bills would be 20-30 per cent higher without Britain's unique regulatory model.

Despite anger over a 3.5 per cent rise in water bills to an average of £388 per household last month and the ever-increasing cost of gas and electricity, Francis Yeoh told The Independent on Sunday that Britain's regulators provided an "incredible environment".

Mr Yeoh, who heads up the YTL Corporation that splashed out £1.24bn for Wessex Water in 2002, said: "The one big contribution to Europe that Britain could make is your regulatory framework. But they're not going to listen to you guys for historical reasons, are they?

"If Europe had this kind of framework, don't you think that people [big investors] would be buying into Greek utilities today? Wessex Water: I don't sell it. I love this idea of owning for the long-term."

Mr Yeoh bemoaned what he sees as a Britain determined to criticise what he views as a major success, the regulators set up in the wake of privatisation. He argued that they have succeeded in making naturally monopolistic markets, such as the supply of water, mirror how those sectors could work if competition had been possible.

Mr Yeoh is keen to snap up more big pieces of British infrastructure, having recently made a £1.2bn bid for Stansted Airport. YTL lost out to Manchester Airports Group, which paid around £300m more than its Asian rival.