The Federal Trade Commission has given its OK to Duke Energy's planned acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas, the companies said Tuesday.
The two Charlotte companies announced the $6.7 billion merger in October. The deal still needs the approval of state utilities regulators and Piedmont shareholders. Duke and Piedmont also said they’re providing information about the deal to utilities regulators in South Carolina and Tennessee.
Duke hopes to complete the purchase by the end of 2016.
In technical terms, the FTC said it granted early termination of the 30-day waiting period for mergers that’s required under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. That 1976 law requires federal officials to review how mergers might affect a given industry or consumers.
In October, Duke said it planned to acquire Piedmont for $4.9 billion in cash, and to assume $1.8 billion in Piedmont debt. Piedmont shareholders are expected to vote Jan. 22.
Analysts said at the time that electric utility acquisitions of gas companies were a trend, in part because of slow growth in the electric business. Meanwhile, gas companies are in growth mode, as utilities look for cheaper, cleaner ways to generate power.
In August, Atlanta’s Southern Co. announced a $12 billion deal to buy gas company AGL Resources.
Executives from Duke and Piedmont began discussing a combination after that deal, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the merger.
Duke and Piedmont have said they plan no layoffs or price increases related to the deal.
See the Piedmont Natural Gas proxy statement for the Jan. 22, 2016, merger vote, detailing how the deal came together, how shareholders will be compensated, and post-merger executive compensation.