Progress Energy shareholders overwhelmingly approved the power company's $26 billion merger with Duke Energy this morning in Raleigh, just an hour after Duke shareholders gave their assent in Charlotte.
Shareholder approval, which was widely expected, would create the nation's largest electric utility with 7.1 million customers in six states. Progress shareholders voted 95.9 percent in favor of the vote, while Duke shareholders also voted overwhelmingly to approve the deal.
Executives at both electric utilities have promoted the deal for months as the best way to create the financial heft required to build new nuclear plants, upgrade transmission systems and comply with stricter environmental regulations.
"It means shareholders really like the deal," Progress CEO Bill Johnson said after the vote tally was announced this morning at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh.
This morning's votes were a major and symbolic hurdle, clearing the way for more critical reviews from regulatory agencies, consumer advocates, environmental groups and others.
On Friday, a host of organizations are expected to ask the N.C. Utilities Commission to impose conditions on the merger that will shift some of the financial benefits from shareholders to customers and other priorities. The filings will likely question the merger's public benefits as they have been touted by the two companies.
The utilities commission has scheduled a hearing in Raleigh on Sept. 20.