NextEra Said to Bid on Oncor as Berkshire, Edison Interested

  • At least seven parties have shown interest in Texas company
  • Negotiations follow failed takeover by Hunt-led group

NextEra Energy Inc. has offered to buy Energy Future Holdings Corp.’s Oncor Electric Delivery Co. and is closest to reaching a deal among at least seven companies that have expressed interest in the Texas power utility, people familiar with the talks said.

NextEra has submitted its bid to Energy Future Holdings, which is working to emerge from bankruptcy after two years, according to people familiar with the talks, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Edison International are among the others that have expressed interest in buying Oncor. The company may be valued at $17 billion to $18 billion, one of the people said.

Energy Future is holding negotiations after a plan to sell the power utility to a group led by Hunt Consolidated Inc. unraveled. Oncor’s takeover is seen as key to Energy Future’s emergence from bankruptcy after restructuring almost $50 billion in debt.

"They are one of the premier electric utilities out there, and they show a desire for growing through acquisition," Paul Patterson, a New York-based analyst at Glenrock Associates LLC, said of NextEra in a telephone interview. "The risk-adjusted rate of return is quite attractive compared with the cost of financing the transaction in many cases."

NextEra has proposed to buy Oncor with a combination of cash and debt, the people familiar with the negotiations said. The amount offered is more than what Hunt’s group offered, one of the people said, without providing further details. Energy Future may reach a deal by early July, the people familiar with the talks said.

Hawaiian Electric

NextEra also is pursuing Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. in a $2.6 billion tie-up, and is awaiting a decision on that takeover by Hawaii regulators.

Investors would have had to raise more than $12 billion and cancel billions in debt under the Hunt offer for Oncor, court filings show. Unlike the group led by Hunt, NextEra doesn’t plan to form a real-estate investment trust to save on taxes, the people said.

Spokesmen for Oncor, NextEra and Dallas-based Energy Future declined to comment. Warren Buffett, chairman and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, and a spokesman for Rosemead, California-based Edison International didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

NextEra slid 1 percent to $126.62 at 10:27 a.m. on Tuesday in New York, while Berkshire Class B shares gained 0.5 percent to $139.13 and Edison declined 2.3 percent to $74.70.

Withdrew Bid

The Hunt group withdrew its application to buy Oncor last month, saying some of the buyers wouldn’t sign off on terms set by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, including one that could have required the buyers to share potential tax savings with the utility’s ratepayers. Hunt sued the commission last week, seeking reversal of its March 24 approval setting conditions on the deal. Hunt said at the time it wants to preserve its legal rights.

Hunt has said it remains interested in Oncor and may submit a new bid if it can muster the necessary support. “Our goal is to ensure that the largest utility in Texas continues to be owned and operated by Texans for Texans,” company spokeswoman Jeanne Phillips said in an e-mailed statement Monday.

A new deal would have to be submitted to a Delaware bankruptcy court and to Texas regulators, among others, for approval. Energy Future faces a July 8 deadline to file an amended plan of reorganization for the part of its business that includes Oncor, according to Julia Winters, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst in New York. It would make sense to reach a deal on the Oncor sale soon, she said.

"To get the plan confirmed, they would have to show they are maximizing value for creditors," Winters said in a phone interview.

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