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Avista sold to Canadian company

Avista Utilities, a 128-year-old regional energy company that provides natural gas to Jackson and Josephine counties, is being acquired by Canadian energy firm Hydro One Ltd. for $5.3 billion.

The combination of the Toronto-based Hydro One, Ontario's largest distribution and transmission provider, and Spokane-based Avista create a Top 20 North American utility with $25.4 billion in assets.

"This preserves our identity and allows us to chart our own course in a rapidly consolidating industry," Avista CEO Scott Morris said during a hastily organized news conference in Spokane.

"Our name will remain the same, everything as you know it today stays the same. There will be no layoffs, and things will be done exactly as they have done."

Avista, which has been publicly traded, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Hydro One with an independent regional advisory board. Hydro One will pay Avista shareholders $53 per share, 24 percent above the $42.74 value at Tuesday's market close.

The deal is expected to close during the third-quarter of 2018 and is subject to approval by Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana utility commissions, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other federal agencies.

Avista, then known as Washington Water Power, entered the Medford market in 1991 when it purchased CP National.

Morris said Avista shareholders weren't pushing for the change, but saw an opportunity. He began talks with Hydro One President and CEO Mayo Schmidt earlier this year.

"What we wanted to do was proactively become a better company in the future," Morris said. "We wanted to do this at a time we were strong. We will continue to invest in infrastructure, but when we purchase equipment we'll be able to leverage our size. Instead of 700,000 customers, we'll now have 2 million combined."

Once the deal is closed, the new nine-member board, chaired by Morris, will have four Avista representatives, two from Hydro One and three independent members.

"It will have authority to do everything for the most part that the current board does," Morris said.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.