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NiSource-Columbia Merger Gains Approvals; Columbia Results Strong

NiSource-Columbia Merger Gains Approvals; Columbia Results Strong

The NiSource-Columbia merger has gotten past two more hurdles on its way toward completion. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) unanimously approved the merger, leaving Virginia as the only state left out of the nine yet to approve it (see NGI, July. 10).

The commission approved the merger after ensuring that Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania would adhere to certain requirements. The merger has also cleared the mandatory waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Act at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

The act requires time for federal agencies to review mergers of a certain size. Rulings are still pending from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) along with the Securities and Exchange Commission. FERC was supposed to discuss the merger in last Wednesday's regular meeting, but it was pulled from the agenda.

Meanwhile, Columbia Energy Group posted record setting second quarter results on Friday. The company reported that its income from continuing operations for the second quarter was $82.9 million, or a $1.03 per share. Last year's second quarter income for Columbia was $35.3 million, or 43 cents per share.

The company cited three reasons for the sharp increase. The rise reflects the profit on the sale of Columbia's Cove Point LNG business, lower labor costs due to Columbia Gas Transmission's newly implemented voluntary incentive retirement program (VIRP) and an increase in natural gas production.

After discontinued operations, the company's second quarter net income was $47.7 million, or 59 cents a share, while last year's net income for the same period was $26.1 million, or 32 cents per share. Revenues from the second quarter of $468.5 million remained virtually unchanged from last year's second quarter mark, while operating income rose $4.8 million to end at $79.5 million.

Alex Steis

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