A group of investors headed by Australian investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd. has agreed to buy Cleco Corp. for $3.4 billion in cash, Cleco reported Monday.

The deal also calls for Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) and British Columbia Investment Management Corp., together with John Hancock Financial and other infrastructure investors, to assume the Pineville-based utilitiy’s $1.3 billion in debt.

Under the deal, Cleco said the utility would remain independently operated by local management and its headquarters would remain in Pineville.

Cleco subsidiary Cleco Power, a regulated electric utility, serves about 284,000 customers in Louisiana through its retail business and supplies wholesale power in Louisiana and Mississippi. Cleco Power owns 11 generating units. Among its service areas are Acadiana and the north shore.

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, whose district covers the Pineville area, said any sale of Cleco would require approval and must meet standards set by that commission.

Holloway said his biggest concerns are keeping jobs in Pineville and avoiding a rate increase for customers as the result of the sale. He promises a series of community meetings leading up to any PSC vote on the matter.

The Macquarie offer of $55.37 per share is about 15 percent more than Cleco shares closed at on Friday.

Cleco shares have risen and fallen on rumors of an acquisition. In June, Cleco shares jumped 6 percent amid reports of a sale worth as much as $5 billion. But as prospective bidders dropped out, Cleco shares tumbled.

In September, Cleco shares dipped following a report that Macquarie was having difficulty attracting investors to the proposed acquisition. Cleco shares are down about 16 percent since the first reports of a proposed sale.

Macquarie’s co-investors were said to have been put off by the price of Cleco’s shares and limited returns on the acquisition.

But Monday, Macquarie said the utility was attractive because of its steady, long-term returns.