Philadelphia hired JPMorgan and Loop Capital Markets to sell its gas utility, in a deal the city expects to fetch more than $1.3 billion.
JPMorgan and Loop will serve as sales brokers for Philadelphia Gas Works, which was founded in 1836 and is the nation’s largest municipally-owned gas utility. It serves more than 500,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers.
If the sale goes ahead Philadelphia would defease PGW’s bonds and notes and pay off about $1.1 billion in outstanding debt, said Mark McDonald, press secretary for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Moody’s rates the utility’s ordinance bonds Baa2.
The process of gauging interest, evaluating offers and closing a sale is expected take about a year, city officials said. The city council and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission would have to approve any sale.
“The only sale outcome acceptable to me is one that benefits taxpayers and customers,” Nutter said in a press release.
The city is seeking a price higher than PGW’s $1.3 billion in total liabilities and its financial advisor believes that the utility will sell for substantially more than that.
PGW has been restored to reasonable financial health after experiencing financial difficulties over the last 20 years, making it a good time to sell, McDonald said.
JPMorgan and Loop will be paid 0.45% of the sales price up to $1.6 billion and 2% of anything above $1.6 billion. JPMorgan will get 75% of the fee and Loop will get 25%. If there is no sale, the firms will be reimbursed up to $140,000 for their expenses.
Only one other major U.S. city owns its gas utility, said Kent Hiteshew, managing director of the Public Finance Group at JPMorgan.
Interest rates are low and there is a strong market for regulated utility assets right now, Hiteshew said.
JPMorgan’s Public Finance Group will work along with its Global Mergers & Acquisitions Group on the deal, Hiteshew said. Hiteshew’s group will help provide guidance about PGW and the required governmental approval processes, he said.