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A federal ruling on whether Progress Energy and Duke Energy can combine into the nation’s largest electric utility could come as early as Friday, bringing closure to a deal announced 17 months ago.

In an internal message to 29,000 employees on Thursday, the two power companies said the highly anticipated decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could come anytime from here on out.

Raleigh-based Progress and Charlotte-based Duke asked for a ruling as early as May 25 and no later than June 8. The companies made that request in March, when they filed a revised merger proposal, although the federal commission is not bound by a deadline and works on its own schedule.

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