Avista bought by Canadian company for $5.3 billion

KREM 2's Ryan Simms investigates the merger of Hydro one and Avista to see how it affects people in our area.

SPOKANE, Wash. – Canadian utility company Hydro One acquired Avista Wednesday afternoon for $5.3 billion in an all-cash deal.

The two utility companies said the merger will not impact customer rates. No workforce reductions are anticipated as a result of this transaction for either Hydro One or Avista according to a press release.

Hydro one serves more than 1.4 million customers, which is double the number of Avista's customers.

Avista Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Scott Morris said, “For Avista, the decision to team up with Hydro One at a time of strength and growth represents a win for our customers, employees, shareholders and the communities we serve.”

Following the completion of the merger, Avista said it will maintain its existing corporate headquarters in Spokane and will continue to operate as a standalone utility in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

According to a press release, the merger was unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies and is expected to close in late 2018. 

The Washington Utility Transportation Commission said the merger would need to be approved by them before it can take place, as they are required to review any major changes in ownership.

"Nothing has been filed yet," said Amanda Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Washington UTC. "But the process is that they would file it with us and that will kick off the process."

Maxwell said a state statute called the "net benefit standard" demands that rate payers (customers) be held harmless and the beneficiaries of any changes in ownership. 

"Typically, with these kind of agreements, you'll see some sort of rate returned to customers," she said. Maxwell cited an example from 2008, when Puget Sound Energy was bought out by an Australian investor group. 

"In that final order, the commissioners demanded the company meet several conditions," she said. "It also included a credit back to the customers."

Maxwell said their review processes will not change, despite Hydro One being a Canadian company.

Avista recently applied to the UTC for a three year plan to raise rates. Maxwell said that application would continue. She said the rate review process typically takes about 11 months.

"We will continue down that path of making sure we make those investments," the Avista CEO said Wednesday at a press conference when asked about the proposed rate increase, which the company has said is to update an aging infrastructure. "We will design a regulatory strategy that is aligned with what happens and the needs of our regulators for getting this deal approved."

© 2017 KREM-TV


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