The investor consortium seeking to buy Puget Sound Energy (PSE) said last Wednesday that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) has notified all parties in the case that a final step in the regulatory process -- the filing of reply briefs -- is scheduled for Oct. 23, after which the state regulatory panel can make its final determination. That is the last remaining regulatory approval needed to close the $7.4 billion deal.
Puget Holdings LLC, the private consortium, said it has all federal regulatory and shareholder approvals for the merger. If the WUTC approves the merger, the deal can be closed this year, a PSE spokesperson said.
"Puget Holdings has committed equity and debt financing in place to complete the merger and to provide significant capital for PSE's future needs," the spokesperson said.
The merger consortium is led by a New York City-based unit of an Australian investment firm, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, and includes Macquarie Capital Group, the Canada Pension Plan's CPP Investment Board, British Columbia Investment Management Corp., Alberta Investment Management Corp., and Macquarie-FSS Infrastructure Trust. Collectively, they make up Puget Holdings, the acquiring company.
Announced in October last year, the merger was the subject of a regulatory settlement that PSE, Puget Holdings and other stakeholders reached in July this year. WUTC is reviewing the settlement. and other factors as part of its decision-making process on the merger.
The settlement includes WUTC staff, the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, the Energy Project, the Northwest Energy Coalition and the Kroger Co. In addition, a coalition of cogeneration operators indicated it won't oppose the deal, the utility said.
In response to some local opposition to the deal, PSE earlier in July filed with the state regulatory commission to commit to 10 years of benefits totaling $100 million for its natural gas and electric utility customers from a proposed merger with the private consortium of Australian and Canadian investors. Meanwhile, some public power operators surfaced proposals to take over the PSE electric system in three of the nine counties in western Washington state in which PSE operates.
As part of the state review process, the utility and its proposed new backers have made WUTC filings to "correct inaccuracies" that might have been created by some of the intervenors in the case. The proponents have stressed what they see as the immediate customer benefits of the merger, which include substantial infrastructure investment.
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