Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light, ends 2017 facing a scenario similar to its predicament at the start of the year: mired in regulatory morass, awaiting approval of a mega-deal with Kansas’ largest utility.
Great Plains has been working toward a tie-up with Westar Energy since announcing a $12.2 billion acquisition of the Topeka, Kansas-based utility in May 2016. Great Plains enters 2018 hoping to get the green light for a revised deal — this one a merger of equals — with Westar. But that hasn’t come without significant setbacks and adjustments in the interim.
The Year in Brief looks at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2017, and that will continue to shape the state in 2018 and beyond.
The acquisition, which would create a utility serving about 1.5 million customers along the Missouri-Kansas border, limped into 2017 after Kansas Corporation Commission staffers recommended that the KCC’s board reject it.
The regulatory body held six days of hearings about the deal in early February, and in April it ruled that the proposed purchase was not in the public’s best interest, citing potential job losses and large debt for Great Plains.
The companies appealed the ruling, requesting additional time to modify the deal. The commission said it wouldn’t revisit its decision, but in doing so it encouraged Great Plains and Westar to continue working toward a new merger application.
The utilities kept going. In June, they agreed to extend the expiration of their merger agreement through November, hoping to devise a new blueprint that would win regulatory approval.
That plan, announced in July, called for a merger of equals, under which no cash would be exchanged — meaning Great Plains could avoid taking on substantial debt. The companies filed an official application with the KCC and scheduled shareholder votes for November.
A pair of lawsuits filed by Westar shareholders sought to kill the deal. But on Nov. 21 shareholders of Great Plains and Westar voted to approve merger plans that would combine both companies under a new corporate entity, Monarch Energy Holding Inc.
And now, as they did one year ago, Great Plains and Westar wait. Kansas regulators have established their schedule for reviewing the deal, with public hearings set for January and the KCC’s final order due in June.