Duke, Progress Energy clear merger hurdle

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — After more than year of wrangling over competition concerns, federal regulators have cleared Duke Energy's proposed takeover of Progress Energy, a deal that will create the nation's largest electric utility.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's ruling, issued late Friday, does impose some additional conditions on the merger. The companies have 15 days to say if they will accept them and proceed.

FERC twice rejected the $13.7 billion merger due to concerns that it would reduce competition for wholesale electricity in the utilities' home territories of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Duke and Progress Energy say they are reviewing the FERC's latest order and pursuing necessary state approvals. The companies hope to complete the merger by July.

The combined utility would serve 7 million customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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