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Texas regulators nix $18 bln deal for bankrupt power company

By Jessica DiNapoli and Tom Hals

NEW YORK/WILMINGTON, Del., March 30 (Reuters) - Texas regulators on Thursday agreed to scuttle NextEra Energy Inc's $18 billion purchase of Energy Future Holdings Corp , finding that the deal was not in the public interest.

The three-member Public Utility Commission of Texas found that the deal, a key component of Energy Future's plan to exit an approximately three-year bankruptcy, placed too much risk on ratepayers, its members said in a public meeting Thursday.

Energy Future is the majority owner of Oncor, the state's largest power network.

The commission said it was concerned about the debt of the combined company, the independence of Oncor's board and payments to the parent company at the expense of Oncor.

NextEra and Energy Future Holdings declined to comment.

This is the second plan to sell Oncor that has met regulatory resistance. A separate plan to sell Oncor to a group of creditors and investors led by privately held Hunt Consolidated Inc of Texas collapsed in 2016 after it hit obstacles from the commission.

The path forward for Energy Future may now involve converting some of its debt to equity, or recapitalizing by selling stock, and emerging as a standalone entity, people familiar with the matter said Thursday. That path calls for drafting a new plan of reorganization for the company.

Bankruptcy court approved Energy Future's reorganization plan that included the planned sale to NextEra in February, after the company reached agreements with some creditors modifying what they were owed.

The Texas commission plans to meet and formally vote on the NextEra deal at an April meeting.

"In each case I believe that (NextEra's) deal killers are also mine," wrote Commissioner Kenneth Anderson in a memorandum dated March 30, adding that he thought it would waste time to potentially accept the deal with conditions NextEra could not accept. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by James Dalgleish)