Judge says Energy Transfer Equity can quit Williams deal

DOVER, Del. – Texas pipeline company Energy Transfer Equity L.P. can back out of its proposed $33 billion acquisition of Williams Cos., a Delaware judge said Friday.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Williams to hold Energy Transfer to the deal.

The companies announced in September that Dallas-based Energy Transfer would acquire Williams, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Williams shareholders were to receive Energy Transfer stock, $6 billion cash, and a special dividend.

But the deal became less attractive as oil prices plummeted.

Energy Transfer later said it has been unable to get an opinion from attorneys confirming the transaction would be tax-free for Williams shareholders, which is a deal requirement.

Williams argued that Energy Transfer was using the tax opinion as a ruse to miss a June 28 merger deadline and was deliberately trying to scuttle the deal.

Shares in Williams fell $1.45, or almost 7 per cent, to $19.86 in after-market trading following the ruling. Energy Transfer rose $1.11 or 8 per cent, to $14.94.