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Unitil Q4 earnings grow YOY on higher sales margins

Unitil Corp. posted fourth-quarter 2016 net income of $10.2 million, or 73 cents per share, compared with $9.3 million, or 67 cents per share, for the corresponding quarter of 2015, results released Feb. 2 showed.

Fourth-quarter natural gas revenues were up, to $57.1 million in 2016 from $53 million in 2015, with gas sales margins increasing $3.1 million year over year to $31.9 million in the most recent quarter due to higher distribution rates and customer growth.

Electric revenues were down $2.2 million year over year to $47.9 million with electric sales margins increasing $400,000 year over year to $22 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

For the full year, Unitil posted 2016 net income of $27.1 million, or $1.94 per share, compared with $26.3 million, or $1.89 per share, in 2015. The 3% year-over-year increase was attributed to higher gas and electric sales margins and lower utility operating costs.

"Customer growth, an effective regulatory agenda and cost management all contributed to continued earnings growth in 2016," Chairman and CEO Robert Schoenberger said in the company's earnings release. "We grew our customer base by another 2,200 customers, achieved record levels of service reliability, and once again made significant investments to upgrade and expand our natural gas and electric distribution systems to meet our customers growing energy needs."

The company's operating revenue for 2016 was $383.4 million, compared with $426.8 million in 2015, while operating income rose to $65.3 million from $63.1 million, according to the company's 2016 Form 10-K.

The company will pay an increased quarterly common dividend 36 cents per share Feb. 28 to shareholders of record Feb. 14.