The UK’s largest pension fund has agreed to take a nearly 11% stake in Thames Water, the country’s largest water services provider.

The £50.3bn (€56.3bn) Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is set to buy 10.94% of Kemble Water Holdings, Thames Water’s parent company, becoming the group’s third-largest shareholder.

USS is to purchase the stake from Australian pension fund QSuper and Canadian investors Alberta Investment Management Corporation and OPTrust, according to a statement published today. Other existing investors in Kemble include Dutch pension schemes ABP and PFZW.

Michael Powell, head of the private markets group at USS Investment Management, described Thames Water as “a strategically important UK asset”. 

Gavin Merchant, head of real assets at USS Investment Management, added: “Ofwat [the UK’s water services regulator] has set out clear expectations for the company in terms of both governance arrangements and customer service. We are supportive of the goals of Thames Water’s management team and their objectives to deliver the best possible service to its customers.”

The transaction is due to close later this year, the statement said.

Thames Water is the UK’s largest regulated water utility company. It serves more than 15m people across London and the south-east of England, and is responsible for the operation and upkeep of more than 109,000km of sewers and 31,500km of water mains.

USS had nearly 23% of its portfolio invested in private markets at the end of March 2016, according to its latest annual report and accounts. Existing infrastructure assets held by the scheme include stakes in Heathrow Airport’s operating company, and NATS, which operates the UK’s air traffic control system.