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Bidding war for CVPS - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Bidding war for CVPS

Rutland City, Vermont - June 23, 2011

A bidding war is now in play for Vermont's biggest utility.

Green Mountain Power surprised Central Vermont Public Service with an offer to buy the company. This offer from GMP and parent company Gaz Metro from Canada comes on the heels of another offer by Fortis, which is also based out of Canada.

GMP says their offer is 15 cents per share better than the Fortis offer of $35.10 per share. And GMP says it's also better for Vermont and Rutland.

The talk of the town at the barber shop was about the big news just a few doors down.

"I think it is great," Rutland barber Tom Mazzarilo said. "Keep it here in Vermont. I think it is great."

The endorsement was for a plan by Green Mountain Power to merge with Central Vermont Public Service, creating one electric utility.

GMP President Mary Powell said, "It's superior in every way you look at it."

Powell was talking about her company's offer- -calling it superior to what Fortis is offering CVPS.

"It's $144 million in savings over 10 years," Powell said. "It's a significant investment in renewable energy."

CVPS had little to say about the surprise offer, but issued a statement saying their board of directors will evaluate the offer in depth as soon as possible. The governor did not outright endorse the merger, but indicated the deal met many of his energy goals.

"Based upon a quick review, I think it is an intriguing proposition. Having said that, I am not a stockholder, a regulator; I am fighting for ratepayers, that's my job," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

The deal would also bring more business to downtown under the offer; GMP said it would build a new office in Rutland City.

And there would be a statewide impact, too. CVPS and GMP are already the two biggest players in Vermont. CVPS has 159,000 customers in 163 communities and GMP is number two with 96,000 customers. If the two merged company officials believe they would serve about two-thirds of Vermont's utility customers.

GMP is prepared to go solar to sweeten the pot to CVPS and turn Rutland into a "solar city" and expand renewable energy projects already started by CVPS.

"We want to help Rutland become on a per capita basis the most solarized city in the state of Vermont," Powell said.

GMP is promising no layoffs outside of executives who might lose out under the deal and GMP understands there could be more turns ahead.

"There are a lot of ways things could work out," Powell said. "Fortis could improve their offer. I can't speak to all the different possibilities they-- the Central Vermont Public Service board-- would entertain or think about."

But GMP is banking they can prevail with the help of pushing the pencil and the public perception GMP is better than turning to an unknown like Fortis.

"I have got all my children here and all my grandkids so it's great to have something to come in here and help out some rather than sell it out and never hear from them again," Mazzarilo said.

The thoughts of a barber who's watching this high stakes business deal just around the corner.

Fortis released a carefully worded statement saying it is aware of the GMP offer and "Fortis will respond to the determination of the Board of Directors of CVPS in accordance with the Merger Agreement between CVPS and Fortis... It contains customary provisions dealing with alternative offers and termination arrangements." Fortis did not say what those provisions are.

Anson Tebbetts - WCAX News

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