Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 1996

Converging Markets: The First Real Electric/Gas Merger

Converging Markets:

The First REAL Electric/Gas MergerEnron's bid

to acquire Portland General heralds a new phase

in utility competition.

Why the Holding Company Act doesn't matter.

By Charles M. Studness

The merger agreement between Enron and Portland General Corp. has reshuffled the electric restructuring deck. It makes electric utilities takeover targets for outside suitors after 60 years of peaceful immunity.

Fitch Evaluates NY's Electric Future

Citing the ongoing Competitive Opportunities Proceeding as well as recent public statements by New York Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman John O'Mara, Fitch Investors' Service predicts that New York will aggressively approach electric industry restructuring.

Fitch believes electric utility bondholders could be adversely affected by PSC policies that order less than full stranded-cost compensation, establish penalties to force disaggregation, or provide bailouts that transform weak companies into strong competitors.

Florida Rejects Electric Discount Plan

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected a proposal by Gulf Power Co. to offer negotiated contracts to large, "at-risk" customers that would otherwise leave the system to find power from another source.

Enron's End Run

Marriage of convenience eyes retail market.

By Richard S. Green and J. Michael Parish

Enron's proposed entry into the electric energy business is a "wake-up call." Open competition will continue to accelerate, and new, aggressive players will seek ways to become involved as the energy and energy services businesses converge.

A combined Enron/Portland General Corp.

SoCalGas Arques Over Fuel Charge

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has taken issue with the coal industry's opinion that lower electric rates from restructuring would increase electricity use, and that strict environmental regulations would require meeting the increased demand with out-of-state generation.

"These coal industry groups suggest that electricity demand will rise because cheap coal-fired electric power (em generated in Arizona and elsewhere (em will now be available," said Lee Stewart, a SoCalGas senior vice president.

Ohio Reviews Gas Regulation

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened a docket to examine regulatory reform of the state's natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs), responding to a new state law (Amended Substitute House Bill 476) signed June 18 by Ohio Gov. George Voinovich. It directed its staff and interested parties to develop ideas for alternative regulatory plans and for LDCs to enter the "commodity sales" market.

Measuring the Merger: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction

Some shareholders do find bottom-line value

in a "marriage of convenience."

With six merger and acquisition (M&A) deals announced between May 1995 and January 1996, and three more so far this year, the long-predicted consolidation of the electric utility industry is taking hold. At least 23 utilities, with business-combination transactions pending, are part of the frenetic domestic M&A activity that has swept the industry.

Cascade Aims for Divident Payouts

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has approved a settlement agreement allowing Cascade Natural Gas Corp. (CNG) to increase its rates by $3.8 million a year starting August 1, 1996.

CNG will also hike its monthly service charge to residential, commercial, and core industrial customers by $1 on August 1, 1997, and by another $1 on August 1, 1998. The utility says the revenue increase would be offset by concurrent decreases in rates for transportation customers.