Unitil reports loss for second quarter

Blames weather for decrease

Unitil Corp. lost $400,000, or 3 cents a share, in the quarter ending June 30, despite recent rate increases.

The Hampton-based company said weather was mostly to blame. With 20 percent fewer heating days, natural gas usage plummeted 7.8 percent for the quarter and 10.1 percent for the first six months of the year, even though consumers continued to switch to gas heating because of the lower gas prices.

Electricity usage – which is not tied to heating as much as gas – also fell, but not as much, decreasing 2.7 percent for the quarter and 3.8 percent for the first half of the year.

Unitil estimates that the mild winter cost the company about $2 million for the six months, or 17 cents a share.

In addition, the company said expenses increased $2.4 million for the quarter and $3.6 million for the six months. Part of those expenses include $1.5 million spent on vegetation management and electric reliability enhancement programs.

The utility has faced its share of criticism in the past for not getting power back quickly enough after a storm.

Still, thanks to rate increases granted by regulatory authorities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the company actually had higher revenues than the previous year, so the $400,000 quarterly loss was actually half the amount the company lost during the same quarter last year. And for the first six months, the company posted a net gain of $8.6 million (74 cents a share), which was $500,000 ahead of last year's pace. The company ended up declaring a 34.5-cent dividend for its second quarter.

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