Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Duke (NYSE: DUK), Progress complete merger; Progress CEO out

Duke (NYSE: DUK), Progress complete merger; Progress CEO outNorthern, WI 7/3/12 (StreetBeat) -- Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) and Progress Energy have completed their $13.7 billion merger to form the nation's largest electric company. But the normally routine event came with a twist.
Bill Johnson, who was tapped to lead the combined company as president and chief executive, has decided to leave by "mutual agreement," the companies said Tuesday.

Duke CEO Jim Rogers, who was expected to be executive chairman, has instead been named CEO.

Whether it was Johnson or the company's board that had a last-minute change of heart is unclear. The company declined to answer questions about the switch at a morning conference call. But as late as Monday, Duke staffers were describing Johnson as the pending CEO and scheduling post-merger interviews for him as the new company's top manager.

Duke won federal approval for the merger June 8. The North Carolina Utilities Commission voted in favor of the deal last week. South Carolina's Public Service Commission approved an agreement Monday.

The combined company will serve about more than 7 million customers in North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and South Carolina.

Experts said the new company will be able to borrow money more cheaply, and it will use fewer coal-burning power plants in favor of ones that use natural gas. It's also expected to keep power prices stable. Regulators saw the deal as the best possible in an environment of energy industry consolidation.

"We're now ready to embark on a new chapter," Rogers said on the conference call. "We're one company."

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