Any water company is subject to regulation, either through bylaws, national or supra-national regulations. In this contribution we assess how these regulatory regimes affect the discretion of privately owned companies in England and Wales and publicly owned water companies in the Netherlands. The issue is studied by comparing the discretion of such companies to pursue strategies of their choice. We look in particular at the constraints and the opportunities posed by the regulatory regime on the provider's discretion in dealing with clients, offering products/services, setting tariffs, organizing themselves and establishing relationships with external actors. Our research shows that the regulatory context invites water providers to differ in their strategies for markets, products and tariff setting. The regulatory context seems not to be a determinant for their strategies with respect to their internal and external organization. The findings of our research are particularly relevant for future research in comparing publicly and privately owned producers. Hence, in future comparative research between companies from different regulatory regimes, it is important to acknowledge the influence regulation may have on the actions and performance of companies, next to demographical and hydrological features.

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