By Ivan Penn
Progress Energy and Duke Energy expect federal regulators to decide this week whether to approve their merger plan, which would create one of the nation’s largest utilities.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is under no obligation to respond to the request by Progress and Duke for a decision by Friday, but in recent days the two companies have been notifying employees that they soon expect to close the merger deal.
The merger agreement between the two utilities expires July 8, although the companies could agree to extend it. In addition to federal regulators, state utility commissions in the Carolinas also must approve the deal.
“The ball’s in FERC’s court, and we’re waiting to hear from them,” said Tom Williams, a spokesman for Duke Energy. “The longer that FERC doesn’t act, the less time we have” to complete the merger by the deadline.
Craig Cano, an FERC spokesman, said the commission has not given any indication when it might make a decision on the merger. He said he could not make any inference about the commission’s inaction so far.
For Progress, the deal could make or break its plans for a proposed nuclear plant in Levy County.
The added strength of the combined companies already has led some 30 lenders to promise $6 billion in credit, if the utilities complete the merger. That could help provide a source of capital for Progress’ proposed $24 billion Levy County nuclear plant.
The merger also has served to bolster Progress’ stock price, which closed at $56.30 Tuesday. But if the deal fails, Progress’ stock could suffer.