Fortis Inc. and ITC Holdings Corp. have entered into an agreement and plan of merger pursuant to which Fortis will acquire ITC in a transaction valued at approximately US$11.3 billion. Under the terms of the transaction ITC shareholders will receive US$22.57 in cash and 0.7520 Fortis shares per ITC share. At yesterday's closing price for Fortis common shares and the US$/C$ exchange rate, the per share consideration represents a premium of 33% over ITC's unaffected closing share price on November 27, 2015 and a 37% premium to the unaffected average closing price over the 30 day period prior to November 27, 2015.
Following the acquisition, Fortis will be one of the top 15 North American public utilities ranked by enterprise value, with an estimated enterprise value of C$42 billion (US$30 billion). On a pro forma basis, the consolidated mid year 2016 rate base of Fortis would increase by approximately C$8 billion (US$6 billion) to approximately C$26 billion (US$18 billion), as a result of the Acquisition.
"Fortis has grown its business through strategic acquisitions that have contributed to strong organic growth over the past decade. Our performance in 2015 is a clear demonstration of the success of this strategy," says Mr. Barry Perry, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fortis. "The acquisition of ITC – a premier pure-play transmission utility – is a continuation of this growth strategy. ITC not only further strengthens and diversifies our business, but it also accelerates our growth."
Under the terms of the acquisition, which has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies, ITC shareholders will receive approximately US$6.9 billion in Fortis common shares and cash at closing and Fortis will assume approximately US$4.4 billion of consolidated ITC indebtedness. Upon completion of the Acquisition, ITC will become a subsidiary of Fortis and approximately 27% of the common shares of Fortis will be held by ITC shareholders. Fortis will apply to list its common shares on the New York Stock Exchange in connection with the Acquisition and will continue to have its shares listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
"From the very beginning of ITC, we have been focused on creating meaningful value for all stakeholders, including customers, investors and employees, by becoming the leading electric transmission company in the U.S.," says Joseph L. Welch, Chairman, President and CEO of ITC. "Fortis is an outstanding company with a proven track record of successfully acquiring and managing U.S. based utilities in a decentralized manner. This transaction accomplishes our objectives by better positioning the company to have a higher level of focus on pursuing our long-term strategy of investing in transmission opportunities to improve reliability, expand access to power markets and allow new generating resources to interconnect to transmission systems and lower the overall cost of delivered energy for customers.
"I am forever grateful for the hard work of the ITC employees in building this great company and look forward to a bright future of continued operational excellence supported by the Fortis platform," says Mr. Welch. "We also very much appreciate the longstanding support of our investors who will receive an attractive premium for their investment and will also benefit from the opportunity to participate in the upside of the combination, including future value creation and a growing dividend program."
In addition to the necessary state approvals, the closing of the Acquisition is subject to ITC and Fortis shareholder approvals, the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, and certain regulatory and federal approvals including, among others, those of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC"), the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and the United States Federal Trade Commission/Department of Justice under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act. The closing of the acquisition is expected to occur in late 2016.
Entry into FERC Regulated Transmission
By acquiring ITC, Fortis is acquiring the largest independent pure-play electric transmission company in the United States. ITC owns and operates high-voltage transmission facilities in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, serving a combined peak load exceeding 26,000 megawatts along approximately 15,600 miles of transmission line. In addition, ITC is a public utility and independent transmission owner in Wisconsin. ITC has grown its average rate base at a compounded average annual rate of approximately 16% over the last three years and, as of September 30, 2015, ITC had assets of US$7.4 billion.
"The acquisition of ITC is in alignment with our business model and acquisition strategy, providing meaningful accretion, and creating a unique, highly diversified, low-risk regulated energy transportation platform," explains Mr. Perry. "The predictable returns of a transmission business, with no commodity or fuel exposure, are very compelling.
"We take a very disciplined approach to acquisitions and are focused on businesses that have experienced management teams, provide geographic diversity in favorable economic regions, and possess significant growth prospects," concludes Mr. Perry.