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U.K. Water Company United Utilities Climbs on Breakup Bid Report

United Utilities Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest publicly traded water company, rallied today in London to almost a four-year high following a report that the utility may be the subject of an overseas breakup bid.

United Utilities surged as much as 18 percent and closed up 4.9 percent to 722.50 pence, the highest since November 2008, after The Daily Mail reported on speculation that a consortium including the Ontario Teachers pension plan and Qatari and Abu Dhabi funds may be working on a breakup bid for the Warrington, England-based company.

The Mail didn’t cite any sources late yesterday and Helen Wilson, a spokeswoman for United Utilities, told Bloomberg News today that the company doesn’t comment on speculation.

Pennon Group Plc rose 4.2 percent, the most since October 2010, while Severn Trent Plc, the U.K.’s second-largest water company, added 3.4 percent, its biggest gain in four months. United Utilities was the leading gainer today on the 17-member Bloomberg World Water Index, which advanced 1.5 percent.

“These assets are attractive to foreign infrastructure funds and in the long run we see it as likely that the remaining pure-play U.K. water companies could pass into private hands,” Guillaume Redgwell, an analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd. in London, wrote in a note today.

Credit Suisse Securities analyst Guy MacKenzie considers “a large-scale takeover in the U.K. water sector unlikely,” and said in a note from London that if an acquisition did take place, United Utilities may be “the least likely candidate in the U.K. water sector.”

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