Dee Valley Water 'David versus Goliath' dispute in court
A "David versus Goliath" dispute over the future of Dee Valley Water will be decided in the High Court this week.
Shareholders of the Wrexham-based company met earlier this month to vote on a proposed £84m takeover by Severn Trent Water.
About 450 customers and staff had shares transferred to them ahead of the ballot to try and keep it out of the hands of the Coventry-based provider.
The High Court will decide if their votes are valid.
A spokesman for the staff said: "The court case is unprecedented in the UK and is a David versus Goliath battle between local staff and customers versus a FTSE 100 company."
Dee Valley Water employs about 180 people and has 230,000 customers across the Wrexham and Chester areas.
Customers pay an average of £145 a year for their water compared with £172 for Severn Trent.
The company had outbid London investment firm Ancala, which offered about £78.5m to take it over.
About 120 shareholders met at Wrexham's Ramada Plaza Hotel earlier this month to cast their votes, but ahead of that, one person transferred ownership of more than 400 shares to individuals.
The court case will establish the validity of the votes and sanction the takeover.
Dee Valley Water's chairman Jon Schofield said the board was determined the views of the shareholders are "properly reflected" with no uncertainty over how votes should be recorded.
"Following a number of unusual trades, our legal advisers made the board aware that the circumstances surrounding the vote were unprecedented and it considered that the only responsible course of action would be to seek a determination from the court as to how to correctly proceed," he added.
Ahead of the hearing, staff made "a heartfelt plea to maintain their jobs and the company's independence".
"Some of the 450 have expressed their anger that potentially the court could disregard their vote, calling into question the rights of small shareholders," the spokesman said.
"The case is even more interesting when you consider that water supply is a monopoly business and therefore this was the only way that customers could have an influence on who their supplier is."
Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said the move would lead to job losses and "control of an important Welsh resource will leave Wales".