Progress Energy's stock is getting a positive bump following a Wall Street report saying the Raleigh-based power company is in preliminary merger talks with Charlotte-based Duke Energy.
The possibility of a merger was first reported by DealReporter, a financial information service, then rebroadcast by Bloomberg News.
DealReporter cited an unnamed source saying there's preliminary interest on Duke's part but Progress won't play unless it's paid at least $47 a share.
Investors apparently responded to the cue, and Progress's stock inched up from $43.39 a share Wednesday to $43.90 a share Thursday. Just as telling: Progress stock, which is typically traded between 1.5 million and 2 million times a day, surged to a trading volume of about 6.5 million.
Progress shares crept up to $44.06 a share by late morning today.
Both Duke and Progress get pegged from time to time as M&A candidates, not necessarily with each other, but company officials decline to comment on merger speculation as a matter of policy. Presumably, such talk could run afoul of securities rules that restrict stock manipulation by company insiders who have an interest in boosting their stock portfolios.
"There's been speculation off and on over the years," said Duke spokesman Tom Williams. "We never comment on merger speculation either way."
Several years ago another report, based on an unnamed source, suggested the Progress was in talks with Atlanta-based Southern Co.
Both North Carolina companies are ripe for such speculation because both have exhibited an appetite for mergers.
A decade ago Progress Energy was formed by Raleigh's Carolina Power & Light buying a power company in Florida, creating a three-state electric utility with 3.1 million customers.
Duke bought Ohio-based Cinergy in 2006, making Duke one of the biggest energy companies in the country with a 5-state electric utility service area and 4 million customers in the Carolinas and the Midwest.
If the two companies combined, they would become a mega-utility with over 7 million customers.
One benefit of such a corporate marriage, from a parochial standpoint, is that the company's headquarters would remain in-state.