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NiSource gets lucky

Acquirer: NiSourceType of deal: hostile acquisition of Columbia Energy GroupAmount: $14.7 billionAdvisers: Credit Suisse First Boston; Wasserstein Perella; Barclays Capital (financing)

NiSource's hostile takeover of Columbia Energy wins the overall prize for best US M&A deal for several reasons. It was a takeover of a regulated by an unregulated utility by an aggressive firm that secured $6 billion in financing from CSFB and Barclays Capital with a market capitalization of $2 billion.

NiSource's executives and their bankers showed tenacity as their share price dropped over 30% during the course of the battle. The offer finally accepted after an auction was actually below NiSource's final tender offer. It received the quickest ever approval by the regulators of a registered utility deal. And NiSource's stock price has increased over 80% since the deal was accepted.

But it was a long haul. Jamie Welch, managing director, global energy, power and project finance group at CSFB, describes it as a journey rather than a deal. The offer finally accepted by Columbia was submitted in February 2000, and the deal was closed in November.

But the deal has its origins back in late 1998. "NiSource had decided that it had two options for growth, Consolidated Natural Gas or Columbia Energy," says Welch. The former was already in talks to merge with Dominion Resources, so NiSource directed its attentions to Columbia.

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