CHARLOTTE – Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) plans to reduce its office footprint in Charlotte as it gears to fend off a hostile bid to split the energy company, a Fortune 150 company headquartered in North Carolina with nearly 8 million customers across the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.
In a letter issued by Elliott Investment Management L.P., to the Duke Energy Board of Directors, the group argued that the company has seen long-term underperformance that is not reflective of the company’s current assets and that “the Company should explore a separation to increase operational focus and improve performance.” The firm which manages funds that hold investments in Duke Energy.
Elliott argued that Duke Energy ought to split the company into three regionally-focused entities.
Duke Energy issued a statement noting the company “is always open to new ideas to create growth and value,” and that it will review the proposal issued by Elliott. The company noted that Elliot has sent a “series” of proposals to the company beginning in July 2020, and that Duke Energy “will always advocate for the best long-term interests of its shareholders and other stakeholders over any narrow special or short-term interest.”
Elliott also noted in a statement that “a constructive dialogue” occurred on the latest proposal to Duke Energy prior to making its proposal public.
Duke Energy says that the proposed split of the company is counter to the strategic direction of the entire utility industry, because scale is needed in order to efficiently and effectively finance unprecedented capital investment and growth opportunities, including in the clean energy segment.
“Duke Energy’s business is stronger and more impactful as a consolidated, standalone entity that remains as one,” a statement issued by Duke Energy reads. “The company can better support its customers, employees, investors and their dividends, and other stakeholders by staying together.”
According to Duke Energy, the company anticipates deploying between $5 and $7 billion of capital in the next decade, delivering 5-7% annual earnings growth. The company outperformed the S&P Utility Index in 2020 and has done so again year-to-date in 2021–in the last twelve months, Duke Energy’s stock price has risen 25.2% compared to an increase of 18.7% for the S&P Utility index.
Meanwhile, the company is consolidating its footprint in Uptown Charlotte, moving into a new facility now known as Duke Energy Plaza. This move represents a 60 percent reduction in the company’s real estate footprint for its corporate headquarters, from approximately 2.5 million square feet to approximately 1 million square feet. The new facility, formerly known as Metro Tower, will house about 4,400 employees, the company said.
One additional benefit, the company said in a statement, is that it anticipates this move will reduce costs to its customers by saving between $85 and $90 million throughout the next five years. The company will sell its buildings at 526 Church Street and 401 College Street, as well as exit its occupancy at 400 South Tryon Street, along with departing 550 South Tryon Street and its offices at the Piedmont Town Center in the South Park neighborhood of Charlotte.
The new facility has a three-year timeline, and the company says it anticipates employing as many as 1,000 local craftspeople and trade workers.
The move will become official in 2023, the company said, noting that until that time, it will continue to follow its new workplace model where some office employees will work onsite or remotely full-time, with the majority of office employees operating on a hybrid schedule, splitting time between working in the office and working remotely.