Reports: NextEra nearing bid for troubled Santee Cooper
- Florida-based NextEra Energy is preparing a bid to buy South Carolina public utility Santee Cooper, news reports from the state indicate.
- NextEra could pay nearly $16 billion for the state-owned utility, according to The State newspaper, but Bloomberg reports the offered price could be as low as $6 billion.
- Santee Cooper is on the auction block after it and partner utility SCANA abandoned a decade-long effort to expand the V.C. Summer nuclear plant last year, having already spent $9 billion of customer money.
Media reports out of South Carolina indicate that up to three companies, including NextEra and Greenville-based real estate developer Pacolet Milliken, may be in the hunt to purchase Santee Cooper, but the price is little clearer than the prospective buyer.
The State reports that NextEra has presented the framework of a deal to leading state lawmakers that would see it pay $15.9 billion for Santee Cooper, freeze rates for five years and write down some of the utility's $8 billion in debt. Bloomberg, however, reports some lawmakers say an offer could come in at as little as $6 billion.
Gov. Henry McMaster has indicated he would veto any deal that did not eliminate all of Santee Cooper's debt, half of which was amassed from the failure of the Summer expansion. NextEra last floated an offer last November, when Duke and Dominion were also said to be in the hunt for the public utility.
NextEra has been looking to buy a regulated utility for years in hopes of shoring up its merchant generation business with lower-risk assets. It previously failed in attempts to purchase utilities Hawaiian Electric and Texas-based Oncor, with state regulators rejecting both offers.
SCANA Corp., Santee Cooper's partner on the Summer plant, is also in dire financial straits and could face bankruptcy if a proposed acquisition from Virginia-based Dominion is not completed.
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