Unitil sets quarterly dividend

Unitil Corp. — still spending money as a result of the repercussions of last year’s ice storm — is also still paying out quarterly dividends.

The Hampton, N.H.-based electric and gas utility announced Wednesday that it will pay a quarterly dividend of 34.5 cents a share payable on Nov. 16 to shareholders of record on Nov. 2. This quarterly dividend results in a current effective annual dividend rate of $1.38 per share.

The dividend announcement comes two days after the company announced that it has revamped its emergency plans in light of the disastrous Dec. 11, 2008, ice storm, which knocked out power to many of the company’s electric customers for days, some more than two weeks.

Unitil hired Rich Francazio, the company’s new director of emergency management and compliance, earlier this year after he spent more than 20 years planning emergency management efforts for National Grid.

Meanwhile the company still is fending off a class action lawsuit, primarily from residents in north central Massachusetts who lost power during the storm. On Sept. 10, A judge in Worcester, Mass., has denied a motion by lawyers representing Unitil Corp. to throw out the suit, which alleges gross negligence. This is expected to increase the company’s legal costs.

Until was primarily an electric company but recently bought out Northern Utilities, Inc. and Granite State Gas Transmission, Inc. from NiSource Inc., giving it 26,000 natural gas customers in New Hampshire.

Finally, starting on Nov. 1, the company will lower its gas rates by 6 percent, primarily reflecting the lower cost of natural gas. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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