Williams/ETE Merger Defies Logic – Here’s Why

fishyThere is something about the proposed merger of Energy Transfer Equity and Williams that’s been bugging us. A uneasy feeling. Why is Williams trying so hard to make this deal happen–when they resisted it just as hard in the beginning? What changed? Why are they now insisting that ETE–who has gotten cold feet and wants out–go forward? Recently Williams published a letter from Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)–a “leading proxy advisory firm”–recommending that shareholders in Williams vote “yes” on the merger with ETE (see Williams Tries, One Last Time, to Garner Support for ETE Merger). An analyst, writing on the Seeking Alpha investors website, takes Williams and ISS to task–ripping apart the ISS endorsement of the merger. Among his points we found this one the most powerful: “If we are to believe the road show documents filed by WMB to promote the company’s sale to Energy Transfer Equity LP, the same network of pipelines, storage facilities and processing plants owned by WMB and its affiliate, Williams Partners LP, would struggle to produce free cash flow if operated by WMB as a standalone company, yet somehow deliver prosperity as a junior affiliate of ETE.” Exactly! Why would the combined new company, hobbled with more debt, be more successful than each standalone company with less debt? Answer: It wouldn’t. This is a snow job. And for some reason ISS and now a couple of other proxy firms have believed that hogwash…

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