Bill Johnson had expected to be heading the nation's largest electric company next week when addressing his executive peers at the Economic Forecast Forum, the annual gathering of who's whos among the state's business elite.
Johnson, currently CEO of Progress Energy in Raleigh, is slated to become CEO of Duke Energy in Charlotte when the two power companies complete their corporate merger. The $26 billion deal is temporarily on ice, however, as the two utilities regroup to work out a merger proposal that's acceptable to federal regulators.
The feds have rejected the previous two merger proposals from Duke and Progress, expressing concern that the merger as proposed would create a company with an unhealthy concentration of market power that could manipulate the wholesale price of electricity. Duke and Progress had expected to complete their merger this year, but now Wall Street analysts say the merger could take three to six more months to get done.
Johnson is slated to discuss the role of energy in North Carolina's economy at the annual economic forum that's sponsored by two of the state's most influential business lobbying groups: N.C. Bankers Association and the N.C. Chamber. He is likely to extol the merger's benefits for customers and shareholders, but he may also face questions from the audience about the economic consequences to this state of eliminating 1,860 jobs over three years.