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Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1999

Score a Deal? 20-Odd Mergers in Search of a Policy

Bruce W. Radford

As utility takeovers break new ground, the FERC ponders proposed rules, perhaps already out of date.

A year ago, when U.S. Antitrust Czar Joel Klein talked of a "window of opportunity" for electric utility mergers, he didn't predict when it would close.

And it hasn't yet.

In the 12 months leading up to January 1998, when Klein had addressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through its "Distinguished Speakers" series, only the ill-timed Primergy deal had been turned down. The next year, 1998, would prove no different.

Managing the Merger: The View from Corporate Counsel

John K. Rosenberg

A tale of three deals - ADT, Westinghouse, KCPL - at Western Resources.

Sensing changes in the utility industry, Western Resources Inc. in 1994 began to examine what it was and what it needed to be - to customers, to investors and to other constituencies. Through an extended exercise in strategic planning, we produced a rather typical end product: a document outlining a hypothetical future of growth, financial strength and customer satisfaction.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

New Mexico's PUC goes down in flames.

This story has everything: politics, favoritism, a stock price crash, extortion (a long-ago crime by a certifiable nut), a utility rate case (I love'em), Ivy League economists (like moths to a flame), and finally, a last minute stay of execution, perhaps saving the utility from default on its revolving line of credit. Heck, even Enron's involved.

What's missing, however, is a clear understanding of who the good guys are.

People

Mary L. Schapiro, president and member of the board of the National Association of Securities Dealers Regulation Inc., or NASDR, was appointed to the Cinergy Corp. board of directors. Schapiro will fill the vacancy resulting from the retirement of Van P. Smith, chairman of Ontario Corp.

U.K. electricity regulator OFFER (Office of Electricity Regulation) appointed Brian Saunders, Ph.D., a member of the Electricity Pool, to head the Department of Trade and Industry/OFFER team to reform electricity trading.

Benchmarks

Christopher Seiple

During the past year, more than 35,000 megawatts of generating assets have been put to auction. Much analyst discussion has focused on the price and premium above book value these assets are commanding in the marketplace. An equally important issue is the new owners' plans for the assets. These plans provide significant insight on where generation markets are headed.

In nearly every sale, the new owners intend to add value to the plant by reducing operating costs.

Perspective

Philip M. Marston

Want auctions for gas capacity? Don't think pipeline. Think online.

In July 1998, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signaled its intent to try one more time to make greater use of electronic auctions in the pricing and allocation of regulated gas pipeline transmission capacity. The proposed rule, issued in Docket No. RM98-10, marks the third major effort by the commission in this area. Several workshops have already been held. Formal comments are due Jan. 22.

Mail

Bill Spratley

Author Spratley argues that Fortnightly's title misrepresents his December article.

In Fortnightly's Dec. 1 issue, I was surprised to see you place a new title on my article about how states are leveraging system benefit charges to finance new photovoltaic (PV) projects (originally "Consumer Charges Power Solar Financing"). Your provocative title: "Solar Mandate? Like it or not, Consumers Pay" implies that consumers are bearing an enormous burden for solar power imposed by state policymakers.

News Analysis

Lori A. Burkhart

Wholesale customer turns tables, threatens leveraged buyout against its own supplier.

Matanuska Electric Association, the largest customer of Alaska's Chugach Electric Association, has offered to acquire Chugach, the state's largest power company. But in launching the hostile takeover, Matanuska said it would pay not a cent to Chugach. Adding a new twist to the term "cooperative finance," the Matanuska co-op proposed a leveraged buy-out - a takeover strategy popular during the 1980s.

Off Peak

Consumers want one-stop shopping - everything in one package, and the telephone, too.

The role of the local electric utility could take on a much larger proportion if residential consumers and small business owners have their way.

These customers are increasingly interested in purchasing bundled products and services, according to a nationwide survey. And they're looking first to their local energy providers for additional services, even for products the suppliers have no experience providing, such as telecommunications.

High Voltage: Affiliate Rules Shock Utility Markets

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Subsidiaries grapple with codes of conduct. Did regulators overreact?

PG&E Corp. has threatened to appeal - all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be - a $1.68 million California Public Utilities Commission fine, slapped on it for violating affiliate rules.

The fine marked the loudest shot to date in what appears to be part two in the electric and gas restructuring wars:

The Affiliate Rules Wars.

These skirmishes promise to pit independent power marketers and out-of-state utility affiliates against the affiliates of incumbents.