Exelon could have hung on and raised its offer yet again; another 10 to 20 percent bump might have won NRG's shareholders over. But since it was funding the acquisition with stock, its own shareholders might have objected to that.
The question is what Exelon will do now. During the tenure of CEO John Rowe, the company has been on the prowl continuously for an acquisition target, unsuccessfully trying to pick up both Dynegy and the Public Service Enterprise Group. With three strikes against it, it could give up on acquisitions and try to expand through building new plants, especially if nuclear power wins more political support.
But there are also plenty of smaller acquisition targets to be had for about the same amount it was bidding for NRG. The same DOE program NRG won a place in includes Scana, which currently has a market cap of around $4 billion, making it a fairly easily digestible target.
Then again, Exelon may have had its fill of bidding. The company seemed to feel that the recession would provide a good opportunity to take over a new company, since the stock price of most firms has gone down significantly. But the energy industry is also facing a massive shift from carbon cap and trade legislation, and the smaller, more nimble companies may well feel that their value is higher as a result. NRG certainly does.