has implementeda regular quarterly dividend schedule and declared the first quarterlydividend for 2016 at 7.5 cents per share payable on April 27 to shareholders of record as ofApril 15, resulting ina lower annual rate of 30 cents per share, down from 54 cents per share.
"Theimpact of warmer than normal winter weather combined with ongoing cashrequirements to address legacy regulatory and legal matters prompted the decisionto revise our dividend policy at this time. This change in our dividendproduces a payout ratio more commensurate with our peers," Osborne said. "We are setting our dividend at asustainable level, which we anticipate increasing as our earnings grow."
To improveearnings, the company intends to drive organic growth through expansions of itscustomer base and throughput, using capital investments targeting higherreturns. Strategic bolt-on or transformational acquisitions may also beexecuted, according to the release.
Gas Naturalaims to have a payout ratio of about 75% by the end of 2017 and an increase inits return on equity over the next several years to the high single digits froma five-year average of about 5%.