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NextEra said to bid on Oncor after Hunt group withdraws deal

NextEra is bidding to acquire Oncor Electric, which maintains power lines in North Texas.
NextEra is bidding to acquire Oncor Electric, which maintains power lines in North Texas. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

NextEra Energy has offered to buy Oncor Electric Delivery from bankrupt Energy Future Holdings and is the closest to reaching a deal among at least seven companies that have expressed interest, people familiar with the talks said.

Florida-based NextEra, the nation’s largest provider of wind and solar power, has submitted its bid to Energy Future Holdings, which is working to emerge from bankruptcy after two years, according to people familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified. Berkshire Hathaway and Edison International are among the others that have expressed interest in buying Oncor. The company may be valued at $17 billion to $18 billion, one of the people said.

Energy Future is holding negotiations after a plan to sell the power utility to a group led by Dallas-based Hunt Consolidated unraveled. Oncor’s takeover is seen as key to Energy Future’s emergence from bankruptcy after restructuring almost $50 billion in debt.

NextEra has proposed to buy Oncor with a combination of cash and debt, the people familiar with the negotiations said. The amount offered is more than what Hunt’s group offered, one of the people said. Energy Future may reach a deal by early July, the people familiar with the talks said.

Investors would have had to raise more than $12 billion and cancel billions in debt under the Hunt offer, court filings show. Unlike the group led by Hunt, NextEra doesn’t plan to form a real-estate investment trust to save on taxes, the people said.

Spokesmen for Oncor, NextEra and Dallas-based Energy Future declined to comment. Warren Buffett, chairman and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, and a spokesman for Rosemead, California-based Edison International didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Hunt group withdrew its application to buy Oncor last month, saying some of the buyers wouldn’t sign off on terms set by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, including one that could have required the buyers to share potential tax savings with the utility’s ratepayers. Hunt sued the commission last week, seeking reversal of its March 24 approval setting conditions on the deal. Hunt said at the time it wants to preserve its legal rights.

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