Louisiana regulators approve Cleco Corporation sale

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana utility regulators have approved the sale of energy company Cleco Corp.

A 4-1 vote late Monday by the Public Service Commission allows the sale to a group of investors. The PSC had rejected the $4.9 million sale of the Pineville, Louisiana-based utility in February.

The purchasing group is led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, John Hancock Financial and other infrastructure investors.

Cleco shareholders had approved the sale but it needed PSC approval.

Media reports on Monday's meeting said PSC member Foster Campbell agreed to consider supporting the sale if a Cleco official agreed not to seek a rate increase. Darren Olagues, president of Cleco Power, agreed that the utility would not seek an increase in rates until 2019 for a period beginning in 2020.

Investors also agreed to $136 million in rate credits for Cleco's 287,000 Louisiana customers.

Cleco also sells wholesale power in Mississippi.

Cleco said in a news release about the sale that it will keep its headquarters in Pineville in central Louisiana. It estimated that credits it agreed to will average about $500 per customer.

PSC Chairman Clyde Holloway cast the only vote against the merger.

"I am deeply disappointed by today's outcome and I fear for the long-term consequences for Cleco's captive ratepayers," Holloway said after the vote, according to an account in The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1RNjAgJ).

Opponents said there has not been enough opportunity for new aspects of the deal to be vetted.

Casey DeMoss, CEO of the New Orleans-based nonprofit Alliance for Affordable Energy, called the result "a gold mine for Macquarie, a land mine for ratepayers and the commission," The Town Talk of Alexandria reported (http://townta.lk/1RNjRQM).

Olagues said in the Cleco news release that the deal is "unprecedented in its protections and commitments to all of those who depend on us each day."

As outlined in the Cleco statement, the deal calls for the new owners to acquire all outstanding shares of Cleco Corporation for $55.37 per share.