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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's not too often that a multi-billion dollar merger gets signed despite the best efforts of both Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn.

Driving the news: Southwest Gas (NYSE: SWX) agreed to acquire Questar Pipeline Co. for nearly $2 billion in cash from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D). The purchase price includes around $430 million in assumed debt.

If Questar sounds familiar, it's because Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy last year agreed to buy it, as part of a larger purchase from Dominion, but bailed in July due to worries about antitrust objections. The rest of its Dominion deal closed, with Questar carved out.

  • Dominion then launched a new sale process for Questar, which operates over 2,000 miles of natural gas pipelines (plus underground storage) in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
  • On Sunday night, Reuters reported that Southwest Gas was in advanced talks to buy Questar.

Hours before the official merger announcement between Southwest and Dominion, activist investor Carl Icahn made two announcements. First, that he holds nearly a 5% stake in Southwest Gas. Second, that he objects to Southwest buying Questar (an objection that didn't stop Southwest or Dominion from issuing their press release).

  • Like most Icahn letters, this one took direct aim at what he views as managerial mistakes: "During the past few years, management of SWX has made a number of egregious errors at the expense of shareholders. However, the purchase of Questar you are currently being rumored to make at the price you are willing to pay will make all past errors pale in comparison."
  • Icahn added: "It also appears that other shareholders agree with our assessment, given the 7.5% price decline this morning – an amazing and unusual decline for a regulated utility." It should be noted, however, that the shares later recovered (and then some).

The bottom line: Buffett and Icahn have very little in common, in terms of personality or investment philosophy. But they may get to share a sense of disappointment related to Questar, as Icahn came up empty the last time he bought into an energy company and tried to stop it from making a major purchase.

Go deeper

Southwest Airlines weekend debacle draws on in Philly

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 350 flights nationwide Monday, and delayed another 600. That's after an additional 1,000 flights were canceled over the weekend.

  • At Philadelphia's airport, four flights were canceled, and four were delayed Monday. On Sunday, eight were canceled.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

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