Kansas Regulators to Review Westar Merger with Great Plains

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Shareholders overwhelmingly approved a proposed merger of Kansas’ largest electric company with a Missouri firm Tuesday, a move that aims to create a new unified company with a combined equity value of about $14 billion in a revised deal that still requires regulatory approval.

Kansas City, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy Inc. and Topeka-based Westar Energy Inc. announced in a news release that more than 90 percent of the shares voted at each company approved the transaction at special shareholder meetings. Great Plains is the parent company of Kansas City Power and Light.

The proposed merger is expected to provide energy for the new utility company’s 1 million Kansas customers and nearly 600,000 customers in Missouri. The revised agreement involves no transaction debt, no exchange of cash and is a stock-for-stock merger, according to the companies.

“This vote indicates that both companies’ shareholders believe in our combined ability to create a stronger regional energy provider, positioned to better serve all of our customers,” said Terry Bassham, chairman and chief executive officer of Great Plains Energy, in the news release.

Westar’s president and chief executive officer, Mark Ruelle, added, “Our geography and history of partnership position us to bring efficiencies and savings by joining operations.”

The Kansas Corporation Commission also separately issued an order on Tuesday setting out a detailed schedule for filings and testimony spanning the first half of next year. That includes a public hearing on Jan. 22 and an evidentiary hearing March 19-27. The public comment period begins immediately and ends on March 29. The agency’s order is due by June 5.

The application seeks regulatory approval to create a new publicly traded holding company in which Westar shareholders will own 52.5 percent of the combined company, with Great Plains shareholders owning the remaining 47.5 percent, according to the commission.

The companies made public the revised transaction in July after the commission denied in April their original request, saying at the time that the price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies.

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