As Lazard prepares to take final bids for the potential acquisition of regional utility El Paso Electric, some bankers are still scrambling to attach themselves to one of the would-be buyers as adviser or financing provider.
Bids for the company, which serves 421, 000 customers in a 10,000 square-mile area of the Rio Grande Valley in West Texas and Southern New Mexico, are said to be due by the end of the month. A spokesperson for the utility in El Paso declined to comment and a representative of Lazard in New York did not respond to an inquiry.
“I'm trying to see if I can find a horse,” says an investment banker catching up on the process. “I heard final round bids are coming up.”
A deal could be signed any time from "five days to a week to two months from now," he says. “It’s pretty far along.”
Algonquin Power & Utilities and Avangrid Corp. are among the bidders being vetted for the utility, say deal watchers. EDF Energy, meanwhile, had taken a look at the asset before dropping out of the process, a project finance banker away from the deal tells PFR. “They were late to the process but taking a real look, and then decided not to pursue it,” he says.
An official at Algonquin in Toronto declined to comment while spokespeople for Avangrid in Boston and EDF in Barnwood, U.K., did not respond to a request for comment.
It is also likely that NextEra Energy is looking at the asset, says another investment banker, noting that the Juno Beach, Fla.-based company is looking for growth in its regulated utility business. “I’d be willing to bet Entergy, Vistra, Jera, Centerpoint are also looking at this,” he adds. “It’s in their backyard.”
A representative of Jera Corp. ruled out a bid for El Paso, while a spokesperson for Centerpoint declined to comment. Officials at Entergy, Vistra and NextEra did not respond.
Last year, El Paso Electric was said to be active on the other side of an M&A process. The company was bidding against Oncor Electric Delivery Co. for Texas transmission roll-up InfraREIT, said deal watchers (PFR, 12/7). Algonquin was also among the suspects initially in the frame, alongside Albuquerque-headquartered PNM Resources.