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April 25. 2013 12:31AM

Unitil reports hike in earnings

CONCORD - Unitil Corp., the regulated utility that provides natural gas and electric distribution service to much of the Seacoast and Concord area, reported earnings up 20 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year.

Earnings on gas and electric operations for the period totaled $10.8 million, an increase of $1.8 million over the first quarter of 2012.

The earnings report comes a week after the company announced that it will seek an increase in its basic customer charge for natural gas service, from a flat fee of $13.73 a month to $25 a month, largely to fund pipeline improvements.

The company's electric rates were approved through 2016 in a 2011 ruling by the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC order provides for rate increases of $1.9 million on May 1, 2013, and $1.4 million on May 1, 2014.

Unitil provides natural gas service to 29,000 customers in the southeast corner of the state, from Rochester along the coast to Salem, including Newington, North Hampton, Dover, Plaistow, Portsmouth, Kensington, Hampton, Exeter and Greenland. Unitil Electric serves approximately 11 percent of New Hampshire's retail electric customers in both the Seacoast and Capital areas.

The company's results reflect higher electric and gas sales margins and lower borrowing costs, partially offset by higher operating costs, according to a company statement.

"Our strong first-quarter financial results reflect the combination of colder winter weather in 2013 compared to last year and the positive effect of base rate increases and customer growth," said Robert G. Schoenberger, Unitil's chairman and CEO.


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