Severn Trent gets ready by buying names

THE WATER company, Severn Trent, has bought up the names of 19 other water companies around the country in a bid to snatch business from its rivals if the industry is ever opened to competition.

A Severn Trent spokesman confirmed yesterday that it had registered the names of eight water companies outside its area and a further 11 inside its own territory. Most of the company names cover large cities.

Severn Trent said it had no immediate plans to start trading under the new names, but the spokesman added: "We follow the motto `Be Prepared'. Severn Trent means something to customers inside our own area but to those outside it may mean nothing at all."

The names, published in the magazine Utility Week, includes Manchester Water, Midlands Water, Norwich Water, Leeds Water, Sheffield Water and Capital Water (for London).

The names were registered two months ago to an address at Severn Trent's headquarters in Birmingham. All the companies have the same two named directors: Caroline Wilkinson, Severn Trent's assistant company secretary, and Gerald Noone, who is marketing director of Severn Trent Water.

Severn Trent would not disclose how much the exercise had cost but a spokesman said it was not significant. He said the purpose of registering names within the Severn Trent region was to defend its own territory from attack. Among these names are Derby Water, Stoke Water, Leicester Water, Nottingham Water and Birmingham and District Water.

"Competition already exists for our largest customers. The fact that it hasn't actually happened yet for domestic customers does not mean that it couldn't happen."

No other publicly quoted water company has registered names, although South West registered the name "Water West" in March.