Duke Energy, Piedmont agree with consumer agency on terms of acquisition

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas yesterday agreed with North Carolina's consumer advocacy agency over added conditions to Duke's $4.9 billion acquisition of Piedmont.

The agreement with the Public Staff, which advocates for utility customers, comes as an important step toward approval of the acquisition by the NC Utilities Commission, which is to begin a hearing on 18 July.

Yesterday's agreement was aimed at protecting customers of both companies from the costs and risks associated with the acquisition.

The deal had already been approved by Piedmont shareholders, Tennessee regulators and the Federal Trade Commission and was expected to close by the end of the year.

Piedmont counts around 1 million customers in the Carolinas and Tennessee.

The way for approval by the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) would be eased by the Public Staffs' agreement, but the case also involves a half-dozen other entities, including Fayetteville's public works commission, a Piedmont customer, and three environmental advocacy groups.

In the event of the acquisition getting approval, Piedmont would keep its name and headquarters in Charlotte but operate as a Duke Energy unit. Piedmont chairman, Tom Skains would retire and join Duke's board, while Piedmont executive Frank Yoho would lead Duke's natural gas operations.

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good called the Public Staff's recommendation ''another positive step'' toward completion of the acquisition, which would provide wide-ranging benefits for customers and communities throughout North Carolina. The NCUC would hold a hearing on the proposed acquisition on 18 July in Raleigh. The proposed acquisition, which was first announced in October 2015, had been approved by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, contingent on NCUC approval.

Duke Energy and Piedmont also had formally notified the Public Service Commission of South Carolina about the transaction, and the two companies are providing updates to the South Carolina commission about the NCUC's review. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission had conducted an anti-trust review and approved the transaction.