No public utility shall sell, acquire, lease, or rent any plant as an operating unit or system in this state for a total consideration in excess of $100,000, or merge or consolidate with another public utility or transmission company operating in this state, without first being authorized so to do by the commission. Upon the filing of an application for the approval and consent of the commission, the commission shall investigate, with or without public hearing. The commission shall hold a public hearing, upon such notice as the commission may require. If the commission finds that the proposed action is consistent with the public interest, it shall give its consent and approval by order in writing. In reaching its determination, the commission shall take into consideration the reasonable value of the property, plant, or securities to be acquired or disposed of, or merged and consolidated.
This section does not apply to the purchase of property to replace or add to the plant of the public utility by construction.
Mergers and consolidations as enumerated in subdivision 1 hereof shall be exempt from the provisions of chapter 80B.