Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) parent Unicom is planning a shoppingspree that could include one or several major gas or waterdistribution companies or a communications company, Unicom Chairmanand CEO John W. Rowe said this week at the company’s annualmeeting.

Unicom will have a large chunk of cash left over from the saleof 9,772 MW in coal- and gas-fired baseload and peaking plants. Thecompany received about $1.76 billion over book value in the largestdivestiture yet of a utility’s fossil-fueled power plants whenEdison International’s independent power subsidiary bought thefacilities for $5 billion in March.

Unicom plans to use some of the proceeds from that sale to writedown the value of its 10 nuclear power plants, but that should notaffect the amount of cash on hand for acquisitions.

“1998 was our first year working under the provisions of theIllinois Restructuring Act,” said Rowe. “Our earnings beat mostexpectations, our nuclear fleet surpassed its goals and weclarified our strategic direction.

“Rebounding from our 1997 write-offs, we recorded net income of$510 million or $2.35 per common share in 1998, despite deliveringa 15% base rate reduction to our residential customers and dealingwith some of the most severe blows Mother Nature and morecoincidence could muster,” said Rowe. “We also reduced ouroperating and maintenance expenses by 8% and increased off-systemsales revenues by $274 million.”

With more than $7 billion in revenue in 1998, Unicom providesservice to over 3.4 million customers across northern Illinois or70% of the state’s population.

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