Wisconsin Energy Corp. has completed its acquisition of Integrys Energy Group and formed Midwest natural gas and power utility giant WEC Energy Group Inc., the Milwaukee-based company said Monday.

The announcement comes one year after the $9.1 billion deal was announced (see Daily GPI, June 23, 2014).

WEC is projected to have a regulated rate base of $16.8 billion in 2015, serve 4.4 million natural gas and electric customers across Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, and operate nearly 71,000 miles of electric distribution lines and more than 44,000 miles of gas transmission and distribution lines. WEC's customer-facing brands are We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Michigan Gas Utilities and Minnesota Energy Resources.

"Our goal in combining these strong Midwestern companies is to build a leader in the energy industry that will thrive for decades to come," said Gale Klappa, CEO and chairman of the combined company.

Based on the number of gas customers, the combined company would rank eighth among U.S. utility companies. It would rank 15th among U.S. utilities based on the number of gas and electric customers combined.

In connection with the acquisition, shares of Integrys common stock will be delisted and cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange before the stock market opens Tuesday. Under terms of the merger agreement, Integrys shareholders will receive 1.128 shares of Wisconsin Energy Common stock and $18.58 in cash for each share of Integrys common stock they held immediately prior to the closing of the acquisition. Effective Monday, the new dividend level for Wisconsin Energy shareholders, as previously announced, represents an increase of 8.3% over the previous quarterly rate. The payout target for the combined company is 65-70% of earnings.

The WEC board is to consist of nine Wisconsin Energy board members and three former Integrys board members. WEC would be headquartered in metropolitan Milwaukee with operating headquarters in Chicago, Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Klappa recently said the gas utility side of the post-merger company would grow faster than the power side over the next four to five years, thanks mostly to continued low gas prices and propane customers in Wisconsin that are likely to switch fuels (see Daily GPI, May 12).