Unitil posts a loss for third quarter



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Unitil Corp. made strides in its earnings for the third quarter, but they weren't quite enough to close the gap.The Hampton-based utility reported a net loss of $100,000 -- or a loss of 1 cent per share -- for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010, compared to a net loss of $600,000 for the third quarter in 2009.For the nine-month period ended Sept. 30, 2010, Unitil posted net income of $4.3 million -- or 40 cents per share -- down $4.4 million from the $8.7 million -- or 94 cents per share -- reported in the comparable period a year ago.Company officials did say, however, that earnings per share for 2010 "are not directly comparable with 2009 due to the issuance of 5 million common shares between December 2008 and June 2009 to complete the financing of the company's acquisition of Northern Utilities Inc. and Granite State Gas Transmission Inc."Unitil's natural gas sales margin remained unchanged at $7.9 million in the third quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, while the gas margin for the nine-month period decreased to $38.5 million from $42.3 million in the same period in 2009.Lower gas therm sales reflect the effect of milder winter temperatures earlier in 2010, when there were approximately 13 percent fewer Heating Degree Days in the nine-month period, compared to the prior year, said the company.The electric sales margin, however, increased by $2.4 million to $16.9 million for the third quarter, and increased by $2.5 million to $44.2 million in the current nine-month period compared to last year.The movement reflects higher electric kilowatt-hour sales and an electric rate increase implemented in July 2010 in New Hampshire, said Unitil.Operation and maintenance expenses also increased by $1.1 million and $2.5 million for the three and nine months ended Sept. 30, 2010, respectively, compared to 2009. The company said these changes were primarily due to higher utility operating costs and professional fees, and "reflect the full integration of Northern Utilities and Granite into the company's consolidated operating results.""We continue to make good progress on our regulatory agenda with a target of completing a reset of rates in each of our regulatory jurisdictions within the next 12 months," said Bob Schoenberger, chairman and chief executive of Unitil. "We are also pleased to see a rebound in electric sales and margin in the quarter due to favorable summer weather and an uptick in overall economic activity." - CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

 

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