Cash-strapped South East Water sinks deeper in the red as interest payments on its debts soar

Losses at South East Water have ballooned as interest payments on its debts soar.

In the latest setback for the embattled industry, its loss before tax widened to £18.1million from £12.7million in the six months to the end of September.

Higher interest payments on loans, some linked to inflation, pushed it further into the red.

Britain’s water firms are struggling with huge debts and face public outrage over sewage dumping and leaks.

Thames Water said on Tuesday that its debts have jumped by £1billion to nearly £15billion.

Washout: South East Water saw its loss before tax widen to £18.1m from £12.7m in the six months to the end of September

Suppliers including Severn Trent, United Utilities and Pennon have all reported higher borrowing levels.

South East Water paid £54.8million to service its debts, £7.4million more than in 2022. Its total loans and borrowings increased from £1.15billion in September last year to £1.23billion.

The firm, which the industry watchdog named as one of worst performing utilities this year, has 2.2m customers in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

Regulator Ofwat opened an investigation into its water supply resilience last month.

Thousands of homes in Kent and Sussex were left without water in June. Customers had to rely on bottled water and schools had to shut during outages lasting several days.

The firm blamed a ‘challenging, dry, early summer’. It had been asked to explain its performance in the last 18 months. 

Ofwat said customers suffered an average supply interruption of more than three hours each in the last financial year.

South East said: ‘Unprecedented extreme weather events were the cause of the majority of supply interruptions, but we appreciate that problems experienced by customers will result in lower levels of customer satisfaction.’

It will pay a £2.25million dividend for the six-month period.