Confident parent companies Enova and Pacific Enterprises are inthe home stretch for final merger approval by the Securities andExchange Commission, Sempra Energy announced a deal with a nationaltelecommunications marketer, The Furst Group, Inc., that shows it’srapidly expanding in the nonregulated energy and communicationsservices arena.

Sempra Energy Solutions said the deal will begin later thismonth with long-distance telephone service to residential and smallbusiness customers throughout central and southern California, thesame area covered by the service territories of Sempra’s affiliatedCalifornia utilities, Southern California Gas. and San Diego Gasand Electric. Combined, utilities serve more than 6 million metersrepresenting a population of more than 18 million.

Founded in 1989 in New Jersey, Furst is the equivalent of anenergy marketer in the telecommunication industry, buying atwholesale minutes of long-distance and local telephone service frommajor carriers, such as AT&T and Spring, and re-selling them atdiscount prices.

Among the nation’s 500 fastest growing privately ownedbusinesses for the last three years, Furst sells discounted localand long-distance service, 800/888 service, international service,calling cards, pagers, conference calling and enhanced faxservices. It had 250,000 customers and gross revenues of $100million in 1997.

Sempra officials indicated they think the long-distance phoneservice “will dramatically expand” their current household productsand services, which include automatic gas shut-off valves andappliance maintenance services. Furst, in turn, gets the benefitsof a greatly increased customer base, which was one of theincentives for Pacific Enterprises and Enova to combine theirutility holding companies.

“By combining our reputation for quality service and Furst’sleadership in the telecommunications industry, we are creating thekind of telecommunications alternative that consumers have saidthey want,” said Tom Sayles, senior vice president with SempraEnergy Solutions.

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