- Shareholders of Piedmont Natural Gas have approved the sale of the company to Duke Energy, with almost 67% of the company's shares backing the $4.9 billion deal, the Charlotte Business Journal reports.
- Regulators in North Carolina must now approve the merger, and the companies have also requested the transfer of an operating license in Tennessee.
- While Duke has asked North Carolina for an expedited review of the deal, the merger could face scrutiny at the state level due to Duke's growing reliance on gas and increasing influence in the region.
Duke and Piedmont have moved one step closer to completing their merger, and now only need a pair of state approvals to combine the companies. In North Carolina, the companies have asked for an expedited review of the proposal, though there is some indication the deal could face heightened scrutiny because it could bolster the state's reliance on natural gas. The companies also filed a request earlier this month with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority to transfer Piedmont’s Tennessee operating license to Duke.
The Federal Trade Commission has already weighed in, granting early termination under the federal Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. The companies told the North Carolina Utilities Commission that lower fuel costs could help Duke's customers, and that the deal "will not have a net adverse impact on the rates and services.”
If approved, the merger would add about 1 million new gas customers to Duke's service territory, returning the company to the gas business for the first time since 2007. Piedmont and Duke are also partners on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (running approximately 550 miles), along with project lead Dominion, a Virginia-based investor-owned utility. Duke's bid to purchase Piedmont Natural Gas will force a restructuring of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's ownership due to clauses that no party can own a majority stake and keeping Dominion as the lead owner.
Duke expects the deal to close by the end of 2016; the merger was announced in October.