08/28/2013 10:00 EDT | Updated 10/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Capital Power sells three New England plants, closes Toronto and Chicago offices

EDMONTON - Capital Power Corp. is selling three New England power plants to Emera Inc. for US$541 million as it shifts its focus away from the U.S. merchant power business and toward the stronger Alberta market.

"Our re-focusing reflects the fact that North American power markets have evolved over the past several years," said CEO Brian Vaasjo in a release.

"Capital Power can now pursue higher value investment opportunities in the fast-growing Alberta market."

The proceeds from the sale will help Capital Power fund its 50 per cent share of the $1.4-billion Shepard Energy Centre in Calgary, a natural gas-fired plant it's building alongside city-owned utility Enmax Corp.

Edmonton-based Capital Power (TSX: CPX) plans to close its Toronto office immediately and its Chicago office next year.

The changes are expected to reduce costs by $25 million to $30 million per year as of the first quarter of 2014, excluding the sale of the New England facilities themselves.

They should also boost annualized earnings per share by 20 to 25 cents and increase cash flow per share by about 25 to 30 cents.

Capital Power expects to book a $10-million restructuring charge in the third quarter.

Energy trading and portfolio management activities will continue within Alberta, while teams in Alberta, Boston and San Diego will seek development and acquisition opportunities across North America.

"Capital Power's business will be simpler and more focused after these actions, and the right size to be competitive for the future," said Vaasjo.

Halifax-based Emera will be buying combined-cycle natural gas plants in Bridgeport, Conn., Tiverton, R.I., and Rumford, Maine, capable of generating a total of 1,050 megawatts of electricity.

Emera CEO Chris Huskilson said the power plants are in a region his company knows well, and will be a good fit with hydroelectric and wind facilities it already has in the northeastern United States.

"Emera is making this investment for the long term,” said Huskilson.

"The earnings profile is modest in the early years, but we have acquired these facilities at a fair price and we expect their value will increase over time, as we optimize within our portfolio, as older, less efficient assets in the region are retired, and more intermittent renewable generation is added to the system."

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter, provided it obtains regulatory approvals and meets other conditions.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary