Almost half of the largest gas and electricity firms “made ‘convergence-related’ acquisitions or major moves” at the end of the nineties. Oil companies such as bp, Shell and Texaco acquired power companies. The CEO of Edison International predicted that by 2010 there would be only 10 energy conglomerates worldwide. Such conglomerates will have even more ability to manipulate prices and avoid competition, further negating the supposed benefits of deregulation.
Vertically and horizontally integrated companies that provide full electricity and gas service as well as water and waste services from source to customer are emerging. The Public Services Privatisation Research Unit noted in 1996:
The multinationals are now prepared to take over virtually any part of public services. Générale des Eaux is the most dramatic example of this. In the UK, it operates water companies; hospitals; refuse collection services; waste-to-energy plants; housing management; financial administration; road and bridge building; car parks; cable television; mobile phones; and is bidding for a railway franchise. In France, it operates in all these areas plus television, catering, bus and rail transport, motorways, and electricity generating - and, now, education. In the rest of the world, it is acquiring a similar range of contracts.
Générale des Eaux evolved into Vivendi which has recently separated off some of its service business to focus on entertainment (television, film publishing, telecommunications, internet). Vivendi now only has a 20 percent share in Veolia Environnement, which incorporates the water, waste management, energy and transport services divisions that were once part of the Vivendi empire. Veolia Transport manages airports and public transport systems and employs 77,591 employees in 28 countries. Most recently there have been proposals to merge Veolia with French electricity company EDF, whichtes 5% owned by the French government but very active in the electricity sectors of many other nations.
RWE advertised itself as “Everything you need from one source… Electricity. Gas. Water. Recycling. Services.” Until 2008 it owned American Water, the largest private water utility in the US as well as Thames Water in the UK. It retains its electricity and natural gas operations across Europe and is one of the largest electricity producers in Germany.
GDF Suez, the world's second largest utility, providing electricity, natural gas, renewable energy and environmental services. The company owns 35% of Suez Environnement which provides water treatment and waste management. It "employs 200,000 people worldwide and achieved revenues of €83.1 billion in 2008". It claims to be the largest independent power producer in the world and the largest buyer of natural gas in Europe. It is a leading electricty generators in Belgium, the Netherlands, and the largest non-government generator in Brazil and Thailand. In Australia it is "one of the nation's leading independent power generators" and is also active in other "businesses including downstream LNG, gas distribution, desalination and retail".
Some argue that energy transnationals will become not merely ‘power centres’ but ‘global centres’, owning not only electricity systems within national borders but systems extending across entire continents, including not only electricity and natural gas but other services such as telecommunications.