For Mirant, A Big Switcheroo?

FOR NOW, A BROWNOUT
The failed attempt by Mirant (MIR ) (MIR) to gobble up NRG Energy (NEG ) may be a case of the hunter becoming the quarry. On June 12 electricity giant Mirant pulled its hostile $7.8 billion bid for rival NRG. Mirant investors Pirate Capital and Omega Advisors opposed the offer, while NRG scoffed at it. Now some think Mirant has put itself in play. Pirate urges Mirant to sell -- or face a proxy fight. Manny Weintraub of Integre Advisors says independent utilities "are so undervalued" that they must buy back shares, acquire rivals, or get bought out. Mirant is less leveraged than NRG. It came out of Chapter 11 earlier this year with most assets intact but with $4 billion less debt. That, says Weintraub, "makes Mirant a better target." In a note to clients, Elizabeth Parrella of Merrill Lynch (MER ) says private equity outfits could be interested. Other analysts see utility holding company FPL Group as a possible buyer. Omega Chairman Leon Cooperman values Mirant in the low 30s and says it should sell assets and buy back shares. Mirant stock has slid from 26 on May 30, when it announced the NRG bid, to 23.67 now. Yogeesh Wagle of Standard & Poor's (MHP ) says Mirant is worth 27 without any control premium. He expects Mirant to earn $1.10 a share this year, vs. a loss of $2.75 in 2005. Mirant declined comment.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

By Gene G. Marcial

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