TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Officials with Tulsa-based Oneok Inc. praised an Arizona judge's decision to dismiss claims that it illegally conspired to block a Texas company's effort to acquire another company.
U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver rejected Austin-based Southern Union Co.'s federal and state racketeering claims against Oneok Inc. in Phoenix on Thursday.
Southern Union accused Oneok of conspiring with Southwest Gas Corp., of Las Vegas, to fraudulently induce Southern Union to enter a confidentiality and standstill agreement with Southwest Gas.
Silver also dismissed Southern Union's claim that Oneok tortiously interfered with its rights under that agreement. The only outstanding claim is that Oneok tortiously interfered with Southern Union's alleged prospective relationship with Southwest Gas.
``We are pleased the court has dismissed all but one of Southern Union's claims against the company,'' said David Kyle, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Oneok. ``We plan to file a motion for summary judgment on that claim and are hopeful it will be granted.''
Oneok and Southwest Gas entered into a merger agreement in December 1998. Southern Union made an unsolicited bid for Southwest Gas, but it was later rejected for a lower bid from Oneok.
Southern Union sued Oneok, Southwest Gas and an Arizona regulator, claiming they participated in a ``fraud and racketeering scheme'' to prevent Southern Union from acquiring Southwest Gas.
Oneok terminated the merger agreement in January 2000, saying Southern Union's lawsuit created an unacceptable financial risk.
A trial on the remaining claim has been set for November in federal court in Phoenix.
Oneok is the parent company of Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. and Kansas Gas Service, which provide gas to 1.4 million customers.
The proposed $1.8 billion merger between Oneok and Southwest Gas would have created the largest independent gas distribution company in the nation.