Puget Sound Energy has agreed to be acquired by a consortium of Australian and Canadian investment funds for $30 a share, a 25-percent premium over Thursday’s closing stock price of $23.95. PSE is Washington state’s largest private utility, serving over 1 million electric and 718,000 natural gas customers throughout the region.
After years of record trade deficits, isn’t it comforting to know that at least one segment of US exports is still going strong?
What will this mean for customers? Well, the deal still needs to be approved by shareholders as well as regulators at both WUTC and FERC. And of course, rate hikes will remain subject to regulation. But by taking the company private and delisting its stock, the new owners won’t need to provide the same sort of detailed financial reporting the SEC requires of public corporations.
Filling in late nights at 710-KIRO during last year’s extended, post-windstorm blackouts, I fielded dozens of angry calls from PSE customers complaining that the infrastructure had not been adequately maintained, and that the company was slow to bring in outside crews to get ex-urban neighborhoods back on the grid quickly. Will the new, privately held PSE really invest in improving service? Or will they just suck profits out of their captive customers? While I had my own complaints about Seattle City Light’s performance, I’m personally much more comfortable relying on a public utility for such a vital service, than a foreign-owned, private monopoly… especially in our increasingly volatile and expensive energy market.