TALLAHASSEE — Gulf Power, the largest electric utility in Northwest Florida, starts 2019 with a new owner.
NextEra Energy Inc., the parent company of Florida Power & Light, announced early Tuesday that it has finished an earlier-announced deal to purchase Gulf Power from Atlanta-based Southern Company. The deal expands NextEra’s already-large footprint in Florida and is a major change in the Panhandle, where Gulf serves about 450,000 customers in eight counties.
In a statement announcing the completion of the sale, NextEra Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Robo praised Gulf Power’s work to restore electricity after Hurricane Michael caused massive damage in October in Northwest Florida.
"The last few months have been among the most challenging periods in Gulf Power's rich history as the team worked tirelessly to restore power to those impacted by Hurricane Michael,” Robo said. “We couldn't be more pleased by Gulf Power's performance and commitment to getting the lights back on during what were extremely dangerous and difficult conditions. As we turn to the future, we look forward to extending to Gulf Power's customers our best-in-class value proposition of low bills, clean energy, high reliability and outstanding customer service."
NextEra and Southern Company in May announced an almost $6.5 billion deal that included NextEra purchasing Gulf Power, the Florida City Gas natural-gas company and ownership interests in two power plants. The parts of the deal involving Florida City Gas and the power plants had already been completed.
In a statement Tuesday, Thomas A. Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, said the deal would bolster his firm.
"These sales deliver substantial value to Southern Company and our stockholders,” he said. “By strengthening our financial position and allowing us to fund our business without raising significant additional capital, the value proposition of this deal is clear."
In the initial announcement in May, NextEra said the purchase price included assuming about $1.4 billion of Gulf Power debt. It also said the Gulf Power purchase was expected to close during the first half of 2019 — but NextEra and Southern Company issued news releases announcing the completion about 1:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Gulf Power is the fourth-largest private electric utility in the state, behind Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. Gulf serves customers in Bay, Escambia, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Washington counties.
Florida Power & Light has about 5 million customers, with its territory including much of the state’s East Coast, heavily populated South Florida and much of Southwest Florida.