Friday, March 11, 2005

Public Utilities and Private Interests

Regulators in Orgeon rejected an attempt by a private equity firm to buy an electric utility, Portland G.E., which is now owned by Enron. (See story.) Why is this important? Private equity firms differ from publicly-traded firms in that they don't have to publish their financial statements.
Utilities traditionally operate as regulated monopolies, which means that public utility commissions determine rates based on review of their finances. A privately-held utility would likely be less transparent and less accountable. Another concern here was that of taking on too much debt, a common tactic in taking a company private that could well transfer economic risk to ratepayers.

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