Duke Energy said on Tuesday that it had completed its $32 billion merger with Progress Energy, a few hours after South Carolina gave final approval. The move creates the largest electric utility in the United States, with 7.1 million customers in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.
In a last-minute switch that the company declined to explain, William D. Johnson, who was the chairman, president and chief executive of Progress, was not named president and chief executive of the merged entity, but instead was leaving “by mutual agreement.” James Rogers, Duke’s chairman and chief executive, who was going to be executive chairman, will now be the chief executive as well.
In an interview, Mr. Rogers said that the two companies had immediately integrated their generating systems, one of three steps designed to save 5 to 7 percent of nonfuel operating expenses. Duke has a pumped storage system that can be used to store energy for peak periods, but often did not make full use of it, he said. Now in the mornings, power will flow from Progress’s territory in the east to Duke’s storage system in the west, to pump water uphill, and at afternoon peak, the water will generate electricity, which will flow in the opposite direction.
The company, still called Duke Energy and still with headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., expects other savings from elimination of duplicate functions and improvements in processes. It will reduce its head count of nearly 30,000 through a voluntary severance plan, executives said.
The company did not change its earnings guidance as a result of the merger, although it restated the numbers because it carried out a reverse three-to-one stock split as part of the transaction. It said it would say more about earnings next month.
The combined company is not only the largest electric utility, surpassing Chicago-based Exelon, but also one of the largest nuclear reactor operators, with an ambitious building program on the drawing boards.