The water regulator and a host of government departments are drawing up contingency plans should Thames Water collapse, according to reports.
The bombshell revelation, first reported by Sky News’ Mark Kleinman, came on the same day that CEO Sarah Bentley quit with immediate effect – with the firm refusing to say why.
Other reports suggest Thames Water has called in management consultants Alix Partners to advise on the firm’s turnaround, as well as tapping shareholders for a £1bn injection.
The firm is reported to be sitting on a debt pile of around £14bn.
Should Whitehall be needed to step in, it is understood that the firm would be taken into temporary public ownership in a special administration similar to that used for Bulb, the energy company, in 2021.
Thames Water’s ownership structure is complicated but its shareholders are a series of UK and overseas pension funds, as well as the Chinese sovereign wealth fund.
Bentley’s tenure has been marked with controversy, with sewage spills into waterways causing a never-ending stream of criticism.
Thames Water pumped undiluted sewage into the south east’s waterways more than 8,000 times in 2022.
Bentley earlier this month said she would give up her bonus as a result of the failings, but did so at the same time as her base pay doubled – effectively leaving her no worse off.
The firm has also been singled out for criticism for its atrocious leakage record, with 24 per cent of the water the firm supplies lost through leakages.
DEFRA, Ofwat and Thames Water did not respond to comment requests from Sky News.