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Montana Power shareholders vote on changes

Sun, 09/23/2001 - 8:00pm
Anne Kerven

Montana Power Company shareholders OK'd the company's plan to sell its utility business and restructure itself into a broadband-focused entity.

The plan calls for the Butte, Mont.-based power company to sell its utility business to NorthWestern Corp. of Sioux Falls, S.D., for $1.1 billion, including $602 million in cash and the assumption of $488 million in debt. It also would let its broadband entity, Touch America, become the traded company.

The restructuring would occur with the sale, expected in the fourth quarter, but the deal must still get approval from the Montana Public Service Commission. Both utilities filed for the approval in late August. After the sale, NorthWestern could keep the Montana Power name.

MPC originally planned the shareholder meeting for Sept. 14, but postponed it in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Shareholders were to vote on the sale and restructuring, and on the redemption of two issues of preferred stock.

Proceeds from the sale, plus another $697.5 million from previous or pending sales of oil, coal and power assets, would go toward completing and lighting the company's 26,000 route miles of fiber optic network, a spokesman told CEDaily earlier this month.

The company had been optimistic about the shareholder vote. Friday, the company got the more than two-thirds vote it had been seeking, it says. Shareholders also voted to redeem two issues of preferred stock.

MPC officials say that Touch America will focus on several areas, including continuing to build out its fiber optic network, including metro fiber; expanding its customer base; and growing profitable. With the utility sale and that of other assets, Touch America has $1.6 billion and no debt.

Separately, MPC and Touch America pledged $50,000 to match employee donations to disaster relief, with an eye on a total $100,000. Funds will go to The American Red Cross, The September 11th Fund, the Power of America Fund, the New York Firefighter's 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund, and the Salvation Army Disaster Services in New York City and Washington, D.C.

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