Alberta Utilities Commission approves Altalink-Berkshire Hathaway Energy sale

CALGARY – The Alberta Utilities Commission has approved the sale of a regulated power utility that owns about half of Alberta’s electricity transmission grid.

The deal announced in May involves SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) selling Altalink to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, a holding company run by U.S. financier Warren Buffett.

In July, Industry Canada approved the $3.2 billion deal on the condition that the new owner maintain jobs and be managed in Alberta.

Industry Canada also said all of AltaLink’s earnings must be invested in the company, or elsewhere in Canada, for at least five years.

The commission said Friday that in its evaluation of the sale, “there were no overriding concerns of negative financial impact to rates and service quality.”

Jim Law, a commission spokesman, says Altalink will continue to be regulated in same way it was before the sale.

He said the deal comes as Altalink is raising money to expand its electricity transmission network.

“The commission found the purchase of Altalink should be a net benefit to ratepayers from a financing perspective,” he said Friday in a release.

Altalink owns about 12,000 kilometres of transmission lines, as well as 280 substations, delivering electricity to about 85 per cent of the province’s population.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Based in Iowa, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, with assets of some $70 billion, owns and operates some 284,000 kilometres of transmission and distribution lines.

SNC-Lavalin is one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world and is a major player in the ownership of infrastructure and in the provision of operations and maintenance services.

New Democrat Leader Rachel Notley said the sale is bad for Albertans.

“Albertans paid for this infrastructure through their electricity bills and now it’s just going to be sold off to a foreign company that stands to make huge profits from it,” Notley said in a news release.

“Electricity is an essential service and it should be managed for the benefit of Albertans, not in the interest of foreign company.

“Once again, Alberta families are this government’s last priority. The PCs deregulated electricity market sticks families with unnecessarily high bills while private corporations make massive profits.”