By Business First of Louisville

Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy Corp., which provides power to Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties in Southern Indiana, plans to buy Raleigh, N.C.-based Progress Energy Inc. for $13.7 billion in stock and assume $12.2 billion in debt, a deal that would make Duke (NYSE: DUK) the biggest utility in the country in terms of power capacity and customers.

Dukeâ¿¿s headquarters would remain in Charlotte, but Progress CEO Bill Johnson would run the combined company.

Duke CEO Jim Rogers would remain as board chairman, and be the companyâ¿¿s principal spokesman on energy policy.

The companies do expect layoffs because of the merger, but they have not determined how many as of yet.

⿿We currently anticipate that positions will not be eliminated until the merger is approved, which we expect to take about a year, and reductions will be phased in over several years,⿝ the companies say on a Web site set up to answer questions about the merger.

The combined companies also expect that they could save $600 million to $800 million a year in lower fuel costs and by using the combined power fleet in the Carolinas more efficiently, according to Progress spokesman Mike Hughes.

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