Duluth-based Allete, which owns electric utility Minnesota Power, would not say on Wednesday if the company is indeed exploring a sale following a report by Reuters citing unnamed sources.
The news outlet reported Tuesday that Allete is working with JPMorgan Chase on a sale process that has drawn potential buyers such as infrastructure funds and buyout firms. No deal is certain, however.
"Rumors are commonplace in our industry, and per our company policy we don't comment on speculation," said Allete spokeswoman Amy Rutledge.
News of the potential sale sent Allete's stock price soaring on Tuesday, however, giving the company its biggest one-day market value boost in two years.
It is unclear if the rumored sale was being proffered by potential buyers or the company. JPMorgan declined to comment.
Utilities analyst Christopher Ellinghaus with Siebert Williams Shank said Wednesday, "it would seem peculiar to me that this would be a great time for that company to want to sell."
"I think if there's any truth to the report, it has something to do with the company's desire to monetize Allete Clean Energy," its renewable energy development arm, he said.
Allete's fundamentals and growth trajectory are solid, Ellinghaus said, and so is the balance sheet. And given Minnesota Power's 2050 goal of carbon neutrality and state mandates around carbon emissions, there are plenty of investments Minnesota Power and Allete will be making in the years ahead.
"The way utilities grow is to invest money, and frankly over the next 30 years there's a massive amount of investments happening at an unprecedented rate," Ellinghaus said.
Selling some or all of Allete Clean Energy could help finance those investments.
The company's stock price closed at $61.62 on Wednesday, down 6% from the beginning of the year. That puts Allete's market value at about $3.5 billion.
An analyst with Mizuho Financial Group pegged the potential sale price of Allete at $61 per share but said it "may struggle to find a buyer" for the entire company given its unique holdings and regulatory challenges.
"We are highlighting the potentially long and challenging road ahead that would have to be completed for a sale to occur," Anthony Crowdell wrote in a research note Wednesday. "It also remains unclear if it is the entire business or only certain assets (likely the unregulated) that are up for sale."
A public flight tracker showed a jet owned by Allete was at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on Wednesday, just outside New York City, after flying from Duluth. However, the company is part of a utilities symposium in the city Wednesday and Thursday.
Minnesota Power serves 150,000 residential and commercial customers across northeast Minnesota, selling a majority of its electricity to the region's taconite mines and other large industrial customers like paper mills.
State utility regulators will consider an interim rate hike for Minnesota Power customers on Thursday.
Allete also owns several other companies, including coal miner BNI Energy in North Dakota and Superior Water, Light and Power in Wisconsin.
Allete in November announced a major earnings boost, reporting third quarter profits of $86 million compared with $33.7 million the year before. Much of that is tied to an arbitration award for Allete Clean Energy.