RWE buys Thames Water and eyes BP

Giant German utility RWE is expected to conclude merger deals worth more than £7bn with British oil and water companies over the next few months.

RWE announced an agreed £4.3bn bid at the beginning of this week for Thames Water in a move that will create the third largest water company in the world behind the two French utilities Suez Lyonnaise and Vivendi Environnement. The £12.15-a-share offer represented a 33%premium on Thames’ share price at the start of the previous week.

It also emerged that theGerman company was in discussions with BP about pooling their petrol refining and marketing operations in Germany into a £2.5bn-£3bn joint venture. RWE has some 1,600 petrol stations in the country and BP roughly 1,000, and the move would address what one analyst described as the ‘weak link’ in the British giant’s European chain of retail outlets.

The Thames deal will see RWE merge the UK company with its own water operations, keeping the former company’s brand name. Dietmar Kuhnt, RWE’s chief executive, said the acquisition would give RWE’s water operation the ‘critical mass’it needed to compete in the international arena with the two French groups.