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Friday, July 2, 2010

Utility takeover saga continues

It might be the world’s dullest announcement: A company and a government have asked a regulator to create a timetable for establishing a process to set a price.

But beneath the tedium, there is an important message: The long duel between Nashua and Pennichuck Corp. over the city’s desire to seize the water works is still ongoing.

The announcement was part of a Thursday motion known as an 8-K filing.

It basically says the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission needs to update the $208 million price tag it placed on Pennichuck Water Works last year.

That figure is the dollar amount the PUC says Nashua would have to pay if it seizes the waterworks in eminent domain.

It doesn’t include other properties in the city owned by Pennichuck Corp., the water system’s parent company, including 450 acres of undeveloped land. It also doesn’t include $40 million that the PUC said Nashua would have to place into a fund to protect customers at two small Pennichuck-owned utilities.

The price was based on the situation as of Dec. 31, 2008, and the 8-K filing says it should be tweaked “by an amount equal to the additions and retirements and accumulated depreciation reserves with respect to assets place in service, or retired from service” since then.

An 8-K filing is required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to notify shareholders when a company plans to do something major that could affect the share price.

Even if the price is updated by the PUC, many uncertainties remain about the proposed Pennichuck takeover, including the type of financing that the city would use, whether it should try to buy the entire Pennichuck Corp. and, if so, how much it should pay per share.

Negotiations are being driven by a state Supreme Court decision in March that upheld the PUC price tag.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-5831 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.