LAS VEGAS, JUNE 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The combination of Southwest Gas
Corporation (NYSE: SWX) and ONEOK, Inc. (NYSE: OKE) cleared a significant
regulatory hurdle today when the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN)
unanimously approved the combination of the two natural gas utilities.
In approving the decision, presiding Commissioner Donald Soderberg said,
"I want to congratulate the proposing parties on the stipulation." Public
Service Commission Chairman Judy Sheldrew stated, "The parties are to be
congratulated on a very comprehensive settlement. This is really a terrific
settlement and clearly appears to be something that is very definitely in the
public interest." Fred Schmidt, the State Consumer Advocate in the Nevada
Attorney's General's Office also commented, "I frankly have been surprised and
pleased with the level of cooperation that the joint applicants have provided
in this proceeding."
"Nevada's utility regulators have carefully scrutinized our merger
proposal and determined that it serves the public interest," said Michael O.
Maffie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Gas. "This is the
first of three state utility regulatory approvals that we must obtain before
we can complete the combination of our two companies. We expect that Nevada's
endorsement of our merger will set the tone for regulatory consideration by
the Arizona Corporations Commission and California Public Utilities
The PUCN decision was rendered two months ahead of the August 19 deadline
imposed under Nevada state law. Approval by Arizona and California regulators
is expected to be obtained in time to allow consummation of the merger during
the fourth quarter of 1999. Shareholders of Southwest Gas also must approve
the proposed transaction, at a shareholder meeting to be scheduled in coming
"The swift and favorable decision by the PUCN supports our expectation
that this combination will receive rapid review and approval by other utility
regulators," Maffie said. "Obtaining timely regulatory clearance is essential
in delivering value to our stockholders. Because this merger creates benefits
for consumers, Southwest Gas employees, and the communities we serve, it also
creates value for shareholders."
At the evidentiary hearing held on June 21 as part of the approval process
of the Southwest Gas/ONEOK combination, the Commission listened to testimony
from Larry W. Brummett, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of
ONEOK, Inc., Eugene N. Dubay, President and Chief Operating Officer, Kansas
Gas Service and others detailing the merger proposal and a settlement agreed
to by all major parties to the proceeding. The Commission unanimously
approved the merger, finding the ONEOK/Southwest Gas combination to clearly be
in the public interest and determining ONEOK to be readily capable to serve
Nevadans as a public utility.
Southwest Gas and ONEOK previously agreed to a Stipulation with the
Regulatory Operations Staff of the PUCN and the Attorney General's Bureau of
Consumer Protection - Utility Consumer's Advocate (UCA) on terms that provide
protection to customers of Southwest Gas from adverse effects due to the
merger. This stipulation was accepted without change by the commission.
For more information: Shareholder: Laura Hobbs of Southwest Gas
Corporation, 702-876-7237; or Lew Phelps, 310-788-2850, and Mike Geczi,
212-573-6100, both of Sitrick And Company, for Southwest Gas Corporation.
SOURCE Southwest Gas Corporation
Company News On-Call: http: //www.prnewswire.com/comp/804969.html or fax, 800-758-5804, ext. 804969
CONTACT: Shareholder: Laura Hobbs of Southwest Gas Corporation, 702-876-7237; or Lew Phelps, 310-788-2850, and Mike Geczi, 212-573-6100, both of Sitrick And Company, for Southwest Gas Corporation