ESSU Research Reports

Research reports from the European Services Strategy Unit

  • Equitable Recovery Strategies: Why public ownership and democratic control must be at the heart of Green and Integrated Public Healthcare Deals

    ESSU Research Report No. 11, Dexter Whitfield.

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    Further details in Public Ownership and Provision section

  • PPP Profiteering and Offshoring: New Evidence, ESSU Research Report No. 10, Dexter Whitfield

    The updated ESSU PPP Equity Database records 462 transactions between 1998- 2016 involving the direct sale of equity of 1,003 projects (including those where equity was sold multiple times) at an estimated cost of £10.3bn. The report examines the continued growth of the secondary market and examines the scale of PPP equity transactions between 1998-2016 and makes a number of recommendations.

    • The average annual rate of return was 28.7% in 1998-2016 more than double the 12%-15% annual rate of return in PFI/PPP Final Business Cases.

    • A sample of 334 projects, a third of the total number of projects engaged in the sale of equity in 118 transactions, a quarter of the transactions between 1998-2016, provides information to determine the annual rate of return.

    • In 2016, 100% of equity transactions were to offshore infrastructure funds in Jersey, Guernsey and Luxembourg, based on the ESSU sample of 334 projects. The percentage in 2011 and 2014 was 70% for both years and 60% and 61% in 2015 and 2013 respectively.

    • Nine offshore secondary market infrastructure funds owned 50%-100% of the equity in 334 PFI/PPP projects or 45.4% of PPP projects in the UK in 2016 (Whitfield, 2016).

    • The evidence for the average annual rate of return is based on a sample of 334 projects, a third of the total number of PPP projects involved in the sale of equity in 118 transactions, a quarter of the transactions between 1998-2016. It is a significant sample reflecting different sectors, size, geography and a spread of vendors and purchasers of PPP equity.

    • Education and health PPP projects account for 62.7% of projects in equity transactions followed by transport with 10.4% and criminal justice with 8.4%.

    • There has been little change in the average time 6.47-year gap between the date of financial closure of projects and the sale of equity. This is consistent with other findings.

    • An average of 43.4% of project equity was sold in each transaction in the sample.

    • The £18,387m cost of PPP equity transactions and mergers/takeovers of secondary market infrastructure funds is a further additional cost of PPPs. It is money extracted from PPP projects once they have reached financial close, and in

    effect, an indirect public cost. Financial institutions, aided by construction companies and FM contractors, extract the increased value once construction of PPP projects is completed, risk is significantly reduced, repayments government guaranteed and a secondary market ramps up the value of SPV equity.

    • The direct public costs of PPPs are even higher. The total public cost of PPP buyouts, bailouts, terminations and major problem contracts was estimated to be £7,567m (Table 10, Whitfield, 2017). Further additional costs of PPPs were estimated to be £20,335m based on the additional cost of private finance compared to public investment, additional PPP transaction costs and interest rate swap liabilities in many PPP projects. The combined additional cost of PPP projects was £27,902m (ibid).

    A copy of the 1998-2016 PPP Database can be downloaded.

  • The Financialisation, Marketisation and Privatisation of Renewable Energy: Strategies for public ownership

    ESSU Research Report No.12 with the ESSU Global Renewable Energy Secondary Market Transactions Database 2019-2020; Dexter Whitfield

    Key findings

    • 626 transactions in global renewable energy secondary market in 20 months in 2019-2020 cost US$289bn
    • 34% of transactions involved private equity funds;
    • The public sector accounted for only 4.4% of transactions;
    • 140 transactions involved a parent company or subsidiaries registered in tax havens;
    • Europe and North America dominated the global changes in ownership of wind, solar, hydro and battery projects;
    • 38 assets were acquired into public ownership (15,270MW), 14 assets were privatised (14,504MW) and 14 assets were transferred between public authorities (5,175MW) –there was a net gain in the number assets transferred to the public sector but only a small gain in the level of MW.
    • US$8.4bn of the total cost were fees to consultants, lawyers and asset management companies to negotiate transactions
    • Renewable energy electricity generation is largely in the control of finance capital and market forces so, that by 2050, generation, distribution and supply could be substantially owned and controlled by the private sector.

    The secondary market provides a mechanism for investors to extract profit at the development or operational stages of renewable energy projects. This process enables utility and petroleum companies to ‘shop’ around to buy ‘ready to build’ renewable energy projects without committing to creating permanent in-house development capacity.

    The public policy agenda must change from general demands for climate action and targets to those that focus on how the targets are going to be met and to rapidly increase public provision of power generation. The report sets out proposals to significantly increase public ownership and operation of renewable energy projects and to increase the scope and powers of regulatory frameworks.

    Further details in Public Ownership and Provision section of the website.

  • Chinese translation of PFI/PPP Buyouts, Bailouts, Terminations and Major Problem Contracts in UK


    A Chinese translation of PFI/PPP Buyouts, Bailouts, Terminations and Major Problem Contracts in UK, Dexter Whitfield, has been produced by Prof. Li Bing and published in The Report on Beijing Population and Social Development (2016-2017), pages 166-208, published by the Social Sciences Academic Press (China).

  • PFI/PPP Buyouts, Bailouts, Terminations and Major Problem Contracts, ESSU Research Report No. 9, Dexter Whitfield

    Details 11 buyouts, 20 terminations and 43 projects with major problems, plus many bailouts, accounting for 28% of PFI/PPP contracts by capital value. The public cost of buyouts, bailouts, terminations and major problem contracts is £27,902m, when combined with the additional cost of private finance, interest rate swaps and higher PFI transaction costs. This could have built 1,520 new secondary schools for 1,975,000 pupils, 64% of 11-17 year old pupils in England.

    The UK’s 6.8% ratio of buyout and terminated contracts is higher than the 5.4% average of World Bank projects in developing countries for terminated contracts. This ESSU Research Report explains the causes and fundamental flaws in the PFI/PPP model.

  • The financial commodification of public infrastructure: The growth of offshore PFI/PPP secondary market infrastructure funds, ESSU Research Report No. 8, Dexter Whitfield

    New research reveals the rapid growth and power of offshore secondary market infrastructure funds – a £17.1bn (€20.1bn) industry buying and selling equity in PFI/PPP project companies. The three-way profit gain – original SPV shareholders, secondary market fund sales and shareholder dividends of secondary market funds – means the total annual rate of return could be between 45%-60% – three to five times the rate of return in PFI/PPP final business cases. The five largest listed offshore infrastructure funds made a total profit of £1.8bn (€2.1bn) in the five-period 2011-2015 but paid ZERO tax. Recommends termination of PFI/PPP programme, nationalisation of SPVs, increased public investment and many more policy changes.

  • ESSU Research Report No. 7: Alternative to Private Finance of the Welfare State: A global analysis of Social Impact Bond, Pay-for-Success & Development Impact Bond Projects, by Dexter Whitfield

    The first detailed critical analysis of the growing global market in social impact bond projects and reveals that they are the latest new ‘buy-now-pay-later’ scheme to privatise public services and the welfare state. Details 30 financial and public policy flaws in these projects. Proposes an alternative strategy consisting of government and public sector plans for early intervention and prevention; Public Service Innovation and Improvement Plans at departmental or service level; and trade union/community alliances to develop strategies and scope for transnational action. Published jointly by ESSU and the Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre, University of Adelaide.

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  • Chinese translation of social impact bonds critique

    China Social Welfare journal has published a 6,000-word summary of the Alternative to Private Finance of the Welfare State, a global analysis of Social Impact Bond, Pay-for-Success and Development Impact Bond projects by Dexter Whitfield. Thanks to Prof. Li Bing, Beijing.

  • ESSU Research Report No 6: PPP Wealth Machine: UK and Global trends in trading project ownership, by Dexter Whitfield

    The average annual return on the sale of equity in UK PPP project companies was 29% between 1998-2012 – twice the 12%-15% rate of return in PPP business cases at financial close of projects. The excess profit could be £2.65bn, all of which benefits private sector companies. This report exposes the real level of profiteering in PFI projects and shows how the government's new PFI model, Private Finance 2, does nothing to address the profiteering or lack of transparency. Includes Global database of PPP equity transactions. Also ESSU UK PPP Equity database can be download at

  • ESSU Research Report No. 5: The Mutation of Privatisation: A critical assessment of new community and individual rights, Dexter Whitfield

    New community rights to bid, buy, build, challenge and provide are enshrined in legislation and Coalition policy. The government is also extending existing individual rights to buy and to personal budgets. This paper examines the objectives and scope of the new community rights and proposes a typology of public sector reform rights. It highlights the fundamental conflicts between ‘rights’, ‘choice’ and ‘contract’ cultures and localism. It assesses the conflicts and contradictions between community and commissioning, participation and empowerment, and the impact on democratic accountability, public finance, employment, equalities, the changing role of the state and community, voluntary and non-profit organisations.

  • ESSU Research Report No. 4: The £10bn Sale of Shares in PPP Companies: New source of profits for builders and banks, by Dexter Whitfield

    A new ESSU Research Report reveals 240 PPP equity transactions involved 1,229 PPP projects (including multiple sales) valued at £10.0bn in the last decade. Average profit was 50.6% in individual and group equity transactions (compared to average operating profits in construction companies of 1.5% between 2003-09). £517.9m profit from a sample of 154 PPP projects. If the same level of profit were maintained for the 622 individual and group PPP project equity transactions the total profit would be £2.2bn. (This excludes the undisclosed profits obtained in the sale of secondary market infrastructure funds). Increased use of tax havens for UK infrastructure funds – 91 PPP projects with 50% – 100% equity ownership with funds registered in tax havens:

    Superseded by the PPP Wealth Machine: UK and Global trends in trading project ownership and the ESSU PPP Equity Database which can be download

  • ESSU Research Report No 3: Cost Overruns, Delays and Terminations in 105 Outsourced Public Sector ICT Contracts by Dexter Whitfield.

    The Research Report identifies the scope of major cost overruns, delays and terminations in 105 outsourced public sector ICT projects in central government, NHS, local authorities, public bodies and agencies in the last decade. There has been wide reporting of individual and department or authority-wide project failures in the national and ICT press but little analysis of the overall scope and evidence. The value of contacts is nearly £30billion with an average cost overrun of 30.5%.

  • ESSU Research Report No 2: Options Appraisal Criteria Matrix by Dexter Whitfield

    This report outlines out the key stages in the appraisal process. As options appraisal becomes a more common tool in public management there is evidence that ‘appraisal bias’ is leading to pre-selected options and construction of particular outcomes by the selective use of evidence and narrow evaluation criteria. Yet a rigorous and investigative approach can be very productive, directing attention to longer-term needs rather than short- term interests. The Options Appraisal Criteria Matrix has twelve sections, which cover the full range of issues that should be taken into account in appraising options.

  • ESSU Research Paper No 1: A Typology of Privatisation and Marketisation by Dexter Whitfield

    A paper setting out a four part typology of privatisation and marketisation. The typology provides examples and explanation of the different types of privatisation and marketisation; methods; political, social and economic objectives; and the impact on the state and public services.