Report: NextEra not giving up its $18B bid for Oncor

Dive Brief:

  • NextEra Energy is reportedly in talks about a possible settlement less than a week after its bid to purchase Oncor Electric Delivery was rejected by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, NextEra and Energy Future Holdings Holdings, Oncor's parent company, told a bankruptcy judge they were surprised by the deal's rejection and were in talks with those opposed to it in order to find a solution. 
  • Texas regulators last Thursday rejected NextEra Energy's $18.4 billion bid, citing concerns about the independence of the utility's board and the possibility of increased risk for ratepayers. It is the second time an attempt to purchase Oncor has been rejected.

Dive Insight:

NextEra Energy, while not commenting to the media, told a bankruptcy judge this week that the company is still pressing ahead with a plan to purchase Oncor.

The Journal reports Howard Seife, counsel for NextEra, told a judge the company is "exploring every alternative and action to try to resuscitate the deal." The bankruptcy of Energy Future Holdings has been running for about three years now, and repayment of a $5.5 billion bankruptcy loan is looming.

Last week's decision was the second rejection of a proposed deal to purchase Oncor. Last year, the PUC nixed an $18 billion bid from real estate firm Hunt Consolidated, in part over concerns it would convert Oncor into a Real Estate Investment Trust.

NextEra's more traditional and pricier offer initially appeared to be heading towards approval after federal regulators approved the plan in January, and the Texas PUC approved a draft preliminary decision late last year. But the utility serves 10 million customers, and regulators want to ensure Oncor is independent and secure from NextEra's own finances—a condition at which NextEra balked.

You can read more of Utility Dive's coverage of the deal here. Stacy Nemeroff, a power and utilities analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, said the deal is complicated by its size: “In terms of finding a buyer, they have to find someone willing to deal with that situation," Nemeroff said.

And she said it was possible NextEra could still push the deal ahead. "At this point, it's a negotiation," said Nemeroff.

One factor is price. NextEra raised the offering price when it stepped in after Hunt's offer was rejectedbut if a new bidder must come to the table, it's possible the deal's troubled history will generate a lower offer.

If a new bidder is brought in, they will have some advantage, according to Angelo Thalassinos, senior distressed debt legal analyst at Reorg Research.  "Any subsequent suitor has been provided a path to regulatory approval at the PUCT, now having witnessed two prior regulatory processes."

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Top image credit: Oncor