Morning Brief: Constellation Takes French Offer

Constellation Energy Group has taken a pass on Warren Buffett's offer.

Instead, a big French utility agreed to pay $4.5 billion for a half interest in the company's nuclear power plants and a Midwest utility controlled by Buffett got $593 million in cash plus a 10 percent stake in Constellation to drop its takeover bid.

So ends a three-month battle during which Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings initially made a $4.7 billion, $26.50-a-share offer for cash-starved Constellation, only to be countered by Electricite de France, the state-owned French utility's $35-a-share competing offer led.

Staff writer Steven Mufson reports that the final accord will now give the French utility more ability to press for new nuclear power plants in the United States. The French firm plans to make Constellation's proposal for a new unit at the existing Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility a showcase for federal lawmakers.

A coalition of consumer and environmental groups issued a statement calling the agreement a "bad deal" for Maryland ratepayers and American taxpayers who might pay for federal loan guarantees to new nuclear plants.

In District news, hometown street vendors, who feared they might pushed out of an inaugural payday by out-of-town competitors, will get first preference for 716 prime spots downtown and just south of the Mall, officials told The Post.

The District intends to create about 1,000 additional vending locations in areas likely to have large crowds the day of Barack Obama's inauguration as president, including RFK Stadium, where thousands of charter buses are expected to park.

And staff writer Paul Schwartzman reports that the Fenty administration is providing $10 million in tax subsidies to developers for three projects in neighborhoods where city officials hope to see further investment.

The largest beneficiary is City Interests, a development company that is getting $8.8 million for its project, which includes 220 residential units and office and retail space along South Capitol Street in Southwest.

A second developer, Four Points and W Street Acquisition, will receive $1.1 million for a residential and retail project along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast.

The third, Neighborhood Development Co., is getting nearly $800,000 for a 70-unit apartment building on Georgia Avenue in Petworth.

The developers expect to break ground on the three projects next year.

In Virginia, Google marked its arrival in Reston recently with an open house at its colorful office on Library Street and the announcement of a partnership with Fairfax County public schools, reports staff writer Michael Alison Chandler.

The Internet giant, with a new presence to bolster its effort to gain government business, plans to outfit schools with software to help students learn geography. The deal is one of 300 partnerships the county school system has with businesses, a number the schools would like to increase as the economy sours.

And in Maryland, HomeFree-USA is hoping to find people facing foreclosure.

The nonprofit agency has offices in Hyattsville and Gaithersburg and is offering help to 1,000 financially troubled homeowners in the Washington region before the end of the year.

The agency is one of about 30 nonprofit groups that provide counseling services to homeowners on the brink of foreclosure through referrals from the state.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  December 18, 2008; 7:19 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief
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