Talking to local news media in the state, a Nevada state senator earlier this week took on the case of Reno-based Sierra Pacific Resources and one of its two electric utilities, Nevada Power Co., which is the target of a local ballot measure on public power and a unsolicited bid by a local public-sector water agency that counts as one of its largest customers.

Sen. Randolph Townsend, who heads the state legislative committee overseeing electric utility issues, told news media he thinks the private sector utility and its parent are “at risk” to be swallowed up by out-of-state, including foreign, business interests. He said the state lawmakers should arm the Nevada Public Utilities Commission sufficiently to intervene in any attempted purchase of Nevada power or its parent company.

The state lawmaker told a television interviewer that the utility’s current weakened financial position characterized by low credit-worthiness, bond ratings, cash flow and stock price make it easy prey for out-of-state investors that might not have the interests of local consumers and investors in mind.

A spokesperson for Sierra Pacific Resources reiterated what officials at Nevada Power said early in the week, which was basically “no comment,” regarding the state lawmaker’s remarks. The state regulatory commission has taken the same stance and is remaining “neutral” at this point toward the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s proposal to buy Nevada Power in a $3.2 billion informal offer that would include assuming nearly $2 billion of the utility’s outstanding debt.

The holding company stock has been selling in single digits, most recently below $6/share after hitting a 52-week high of $16.80/share last March before some negative regulatory rate decisions for its two utilities. The water agency’s bid is calculated to be the equivalent of $12/share in cash for Sierra, which would be left with a single northern Nevada gas-electric utility, Sierra Pacific Power, including a much smaller customer and growth base than Las Vegas-based utility.

©Copyright 2002 Intelligence Press Inc. Allrights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republishedor redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without priorwritten consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.