SCANA Corp. has set a date for its shareholders to vote on the proposed sale of the utility owner while also delaying a decision about its next dividend payment.
The Cayce-based parent of South Carolina Electric & Gas said Wednesday that it will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. on July 31 at the Columbia Conference Center. The purpose is for shareholders to vote on the previously announced all-stock buyout offer from Virginia's Dominion Energy.
Separately, SCANA announced that its board will take more time before deciding whether to pay a dividend on its common stock for the quarter that ends June 30.
The company threw the future of the dividend into question earlier this year and has been under pressure from ratepayers and lawmakers to cut the shareholder payments after it abandoned the expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station last year.
That pressure led to a massive selloff of SCANA stock that shed half its value, and it prompted Dominion to make its buyout offer, which is worth roughly $14.6 billion.
SCANA has been paying its investors $87.4 million every three months. It has already announced $262 million in dividends since halting work at V.C. Summer in July.
SCE&G electricity users are charged $37 million a month for the unfinished reactors, or about a fifth of their bills. Those payments finance much of the parent company's dividends. But the dividend has been in question since SCANA's board paused the payouts while the Legislature debates whether to cut its electricity rates.
The company had previously said that if it makes another dividend payment, it would cut shareholders a check on July 1. On Wednesday, it said that date was out the window.
Wednesday's announcement cast further doubt on the future of the dividend, which is expected to be slashed if lawmakers decide to cut the utility’s rates. If that happens, Wall Street analysts say a dividend cut could keep alive SCANA’s plans to be purchased by Dominion.
“It's wise for the board to suspend the dividend in either way we see it,” analysts at New York-based Guggenheim Securities wrote Wednesday.
Shares of SCANA fell in Wednesday morning trading before rebounding, suggesting that investors expected uncertainty in the dividend. The company's stock inched up to $35.88 a share, giving it a total valuation of $5.1 billion.