We’re on pins and needles wondering how it’s all going to play out.
The presidential election? We’re talking about who controls the electric utility in St. Joseph.
That utility, now known as Evergy, reportedly rejected a $15 billion takeover offer from NextEra Energy, a Florida-based wind-energy company that operates turbines in Northwest Missouri. The offer, and its rejection, was widely reported this week in financial publications.
Evergy released a statement Tuesday that didn’t directly address the NextEra offer but affirmed the company’s plan to move forward with what it calls a Sustainable Transformation Plan.
“Since announcing the STP, there has been no change in circumstance that alters the basis for this decision, and there is currently no offer or bid from any third party for a potential transaction,” the company said in its statement.
Evergy’s board approved the STP at a time when Elliott Management, an activist hedge fund, was advocating for the utility to significantly increase capital expenditures or explore the sale of the company. The STP calls for Evergy to maintain its current ownership with a focus on grid modernization, renewable energy investment and cost management.
For its part, Elliott Management issued a statement this week that the utility’s board “must act in accordance with its fiduciary duty to immediately re-engage with NextEra.”
Evergy, a company that was formed out of the merger of Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy in 2018, clearly prefers to operate as a standalone company that initiates its own plan for capital investment and cost reduction. It notes that Elliott Management has endorsed the Sustainable Transformation Plan.
The utility called the STP “the best risk-adjusted path forward and said that all appropriate steps are being and have been taken to maximize shareholder value.”
The outcome is of no small consequence to customers in St. Joseph, who have found stability with their electric provider following a tumultuous decade when St. Joseph Light & Power became UtiliCorp United, which became Aquila, which ultimately was acquired by the parent of Kansas City Power & Light.
Some might long for a return to the St. Joseph Light & Power days, but that ship has sailed. Where it’s headed, in an industry with massive capital needs and a transformation to renewable energy, is hard to fathom.
It’s reasonable to assume that many customers would prefer a utility company that, while no longer based in St. Joseph, is at least headquartered close to these parts. They want good, reliable service and fair rates. Let’s hope their interests are not lost in all of this.