Mild summer hits Unitil’s third-quarter income

Electricity sales down, gas sales up as quarterly revenue rises

Unitil Corp. announced a net income of $2.3 million for the third quarter, or 16 cents a share. That’s $1.2 million less than last year, primarily due to a relatively mild summer as well higher operating costs, including trimming trees around power lines. Quarterly revenue for the company was $84 million, $4.2 million more than last year.

During the quarter, the company spent $700,000 on vegetation management costs, accounting for nearly half of its increased operating costs, but at one point more than 33,000 customers were without power due to downed trees and wind at the height of the Oct. 29-30 storm.

Ratepayers will reimburse Unitil Corp. the Hampton-based utility for its vegetation program as part of a rate increase, the company said in an earnings report released on Thursday, before severe weather again wreaked havoc on electrical lines.

Electricity sales fell by nearly 4 percent, despite a slight increase in customers, because customers were using less power thanks to a cooler summer and more energy efficiency. Nevertheless, electricity revenue was up 3.1 percent, thanks to higher electric rates. But the company ended up losing money on electricity anyway due to increased expenses.

Gas sales to customers in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts rose 6.2 percent, pushing revenue 3 percent higher.

Year to date, gas sales are up nearly 5 percent, while electricity sales have fallen 2 percent, but on the whole, the company’s revenue for the first nine months of the year was $291 million, a $22 million increase.

That resulted resulting in a net income of $17.8 million, or $1.27 a share, for the first three quarters, almost a million more than the previous year.

Shareholders’ equity increased more than $12 million, to $298 million, since the beginning of the year. Shareholders will be getting a quarterly dividend of 36 cents per share.

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