COMPANIES backed by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, and the Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien, are in the running to roll out water meters in Ireland over the next three years.
The race for the water meter contracts – which are worth hundreds of millions of euro – is entering its final leg.
There are about nine bidders on the shortlist for the contracts and these bidders have until May 27 to make their final offer.
The British water company, Northumbrian Water, is amongst those currently on the shortlist. Northumbrian Water is owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure, a company backed by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing – who owns 3 Ireland.
They have submitted a metering tender in partnership with Coffey Water.
A consortium led by Sierra – which is owned by Denis O'Brien's Siteserv – is one of the frontrunners for the contracts, according to a source close to the bidding process.
The Sunday Independent understands that Balfour Beatty Utility Services, a company owned by the builders of the Aquatic Centre for the 2012 London Olympics is another serious contender.
A consortium that includes the Irish-owned Morrison Utility Services is another frontrunner, according to our source. However all four companies declined to comment on the rollout.
The rollout of water meters in Ireland – which is expected to cost €450m and kick off this July – will see the country divided into eight regions. At least three consortia will be awarded contracts to roll out water meters across these regions.
This paper understands that Veolia, which runs Dublin's Luas, has also thrown its name into the hat.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said recently that Irish households would receive their first bills for water charges in early 2015.