News Flash! Energy companies can be fun too. Such is the caseinvolving Williams employees, who according to the company, willattempt to complete the largest money raising bike ride fundraiserin the United States. Some 80 cyclists will embark on a relay-style2,000 mile journey departing from New York City on Sept. 25 andarriving at Williams Tower in Houston on Oct. 3. In the secondannual “Williams’ 2000 Riding The Line” fundraiser, each rider willcover approximately 60 to 70 miles a day, roughly tracing the pathof the company’s Transco natural gas pipeline andtelecommunications network. The fundraiser hopes to raise $5million for United Way, which if successful will be the singlelargest event in the charity’s 110-year history. The team raisedmore than $2 million dollars in the ride’s inaugural year.

Chesapeake Energy announced it had entered into a definitive planof merger with Gothic Energy on Monday, taking the preliminaryagreement announced on June 30 to the next stage (see Daily GPI, July 5). The cash and stock transactionestimated at $345 million is expected to be completed on or aboutJan. 15, 2001, pending regulatory approvals and a Gothic shareholdersvote. The company estimates that preferred stock exchanges, earningsand common stock issuance in the Gothic transaction will increasecommon shareholders’ equity by $800 million in 2000.

On the strength of rising natural gas prices and a revenuewindfall, the Alberta government is paying down its debt and hascommitted C$690 million to an “energy tax refund” that will go topayments of about C$300 each to every one of an estimated 2.3million taxpayers resident in the province as of Aug. 31. AnotherC$240 million will be doled out to power consumers in utilityrebates of $C20 each to compensate for rising electricity pricesunder a provincial deregulation scheme. The provincial governmentsaid that rising natural gas prices — now forecast to averageC$4.27 (US$2.94) per Mcf this year, or C$1.77 more than thetreasury predicted in the spring — account for C$2.98 billion(US$2 billion) or 68% of a C$4.4 billion windfall jump in Albertaresource royalty revenues to C$8.5 billion this year. Alberta hasearmarked C$4.5 billion for debt repayments to bring the provincewithin about two years of being debt-free if the bonanza lasts.

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