(01/16/2008)
Equitable Resources planned $970 million purchase of two Dominion Resources gas companies has been canceled because of delays in winning regulatory approval, according to an announcement from the companies Tuesday.

Dominion said it plans to pursue other potential offers and has received "a number of unsolicited inquiries" in recent months about buying its Dominion Peoples and Dominion Hope units.

Last year the U.S. Federal Trade Commission obtained a temporary injunction to block Equitables acquisition of Pennsylvania-based Dominion Peoples.

It had voted to challenge the transaction, saying Equitable and Peoples were the only rivals in natural gas distribution to nonresidential customers in some parts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The sale of Dominion Hope had yet to receive regulatory approval from West Virginia, which was investigating Dominion's past gas purchases and sales.

A former employee of the company had testified about alleged improprieties by company officials.

"While we remain convinced that customers would have benefited from the transaction and are disappointed that it could not be completed in a timely manner, we recognize that it is time to move forward," said Dominion Chief Executive Thomas Farrell.

The deal with Equitable had been announced last March.

Dominion Peoples serves about 359,000 homes and businesses in Pennsylvania.

Dominion Hope serves about 115,000 homes and businesses in West Virginia.


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