Great Plains Energy Inc.'s shareholders overwhelmingly approved the company's purchase of Aquila Inc.The tally, announced at a shareholders' meeting, showed 96 percent of the shares voted were in favor of the purchase. The approval came a day after Aquila shareholders also approved the deal. The sale still needs regulatory approval from Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. Iowa regulators approved the deal in August.
Michael Chesser, chief executive officer of Great Plains, reiterated after the vote was announced that the purchase will make Great Plains and its Kansas City Power & Light subsidiary a stronger regional utility with the addition of Aquila's 300,000 electric customers in Missouri.
"The Aquila deal was very attractive to us," he said.
Chesser said, if the remaining regulatory approvals go as hoped, the sale will close the end of February. Great Plains will keep Aquila's electric utilities in Missouri. Shortly before the deal is closed, Aquila's utilities in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado will be sold to Black Hills Corp., a South Dakota company.
The short Great Plains' meeting included questions from its shareholders. The first was why Richard Green Jr., chief executive officer of Aquila, was being given $3.5 million in severance pay plus a $909,000 annual pension.
Chesser said he had answered similar questions at the company's annual meeting and didn't have anything to add. He has previously said the purchase price for Aquila was adjusted to account for such expenses. Great Plains offered $1.80 in cash and .0856 of a share in Great Plains for each of Aquila's shares.
Chesser said the Aquila purchase would not affect the Great Plains dividend. On other matters, he said Great Plains might someday be interested in investing in more nuclear power. He said the Wolf Creek nuclear plant, in which KCP&L is a partner, is one of its best assets.
"Wolf Creek was one of the best decisions this company ever made," he said. If Great Plains' purchase of Aquila is successful, it will acquire Aquila's South Harper plant in Cass County.
That plant is the focus of a legal dispute over whether it had the necessary zoning approvals to build it. Chesser said if the purchase of Aquila is successful, the company will visit with local government officials to determine if some agreement could be made about South Harper.
"No guarantees but we're going to give that a try," he said.