United Water Shareholders OK Buyout
Updated 11:11 AM ET January 21, 2000

PARK RIDGE, N.J. (AP) - United Water Resources shareholders have accepted a $1.36 billion buyout offer from the French utility giant Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux.

If government regulators allow it, the Harrington Park-based water company will operate under foreign ownership for the first time in its 130-year history. It would be the latest in a series of takeovers involving Suez Lyonnaise, which is buying other utility companies while divesting itself of non-utility properties.

Suez Lyonnaise already owned a 30 percent stake in the company when the deal was struck in August. United Water operates community water systems serving 7.5 million people in 19 states.

United Water investors voted to accept Suez Lyonnaise's $35.48-per-share offer following an investors meeting here Thursday. The payment is 54 percent higher than the stock's price when the deal was first announced in August.

The buyout required the holders of at least two-thirds of the shares to vote yes. The vote was 72.7 percent in favor, 3.7 percent against and the remainder abstaining or not voting.

The deal requires approval from regulators in seven states. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has scheduled hearings for Monday and Feb. 8.

United Water officials expect all regulatory agencies to clear the deal within three months. The change is ownership is not expected to affect rates immediately.

Suez Lyonnaise officials have said they expect to have annual water and waste water revenue of more than $7.4 billion after the United Water acquisition. The company has agreed to assume about $800 million in United Water debt.