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UtiliCorp Drops Plan to Acquire Empire District

UtiliCorp United


terminated its plan to acquire

Empire District Electric


, citing the lengthy regulatory process that has slowed the completion of the transaction.

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UtiliCorp said the uncertainty of the drawn-out regulatory process prevents any reasonable expectation that the deal could provide balanced benefits for both companies and their shareholders.

UtiliCorp said the agreement, which was valued at $800 million at the time of the announcement in May 1999, allowed either company to terminate the merger if regulatory clearance wasn't gained by the end of December 2000.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

and several state utility commissions needed to approve the deal. UtiliCorp, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., said there were delays in at least three of the states.

Shares of UtiliCorp fell $1.63, or 5.2%, to $29.38 in the

New York Stock Exchange

regular session. Empire, which is based in Joplin, Mo., dropped 44 cents, or 1.7%, to $25.88 on the Big Board.