M & A: Power Players

As U.S. investors shun the nation's energy industry, Europeans are finding big bargains

The utility industry used to be the place widows and retirees invested their savings for steady dividend payouts and slow appreciation. That, of course, was before Enron--and before a recession and mild winter that crimped the demand for power. Since last October, investors have fled not only from the stocks of energy companies with complex finances and trading operations but also from old reliable electric and gas utilities. Some have lost half their value. Analysts view many of these utilities as prime candidates for acquisition, but even among the stronger U.S. energy firms, few are in a position to buy. Their...

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