The December 1, 2011 dividend was increased 6.5 percent to $0.165 per share—the 21 st increase in the last 20 years. The Board of Directors recently declared a quarterly cash dividend payment of $0.165 per share payable on March 1, 2012, to all shareholders of record on February 17, 2012. Aqua has paid a consecutive quarterly dividend for more than 65 years.
For the quarter ending December 31, 2011, income from continuing operations grew 17.1 percent to $32.0 million from $27.3 million in the same quarter of 2010. Income from continuing operations per diluted common share (a GAAP measure) for the quarter was $0.23 versus $0.20 for the same period in 2010, an increase of 15 percent on 0.9 percent more shares outstanding. Operating revenues increased 2.5 percent to $172.7 million compared to $168.4 million in the same period of 2010.
Fourth quarter net income and cash generation were positively impacted by the net state tax benefits of $3.6 million from the 100 percent bonus depreciation for the quarter resulting from the regulatory treatment afforded to such items in Pennsylvania. As a result net income per diluted share was $0.24, versus $0.21 in the same period of 2010, a 14.3 percent increase on 0.9 percent more shares outstanding.
“Throughout 2011, management was diligent in working to control operating costs and they continue to focus on limiting expense growth. I am confident in our ability to continue to improve our industry-leading operations and maintenance expense to revenue ratio, which at 38.0 percent for the year compares favorably to 38.7 percent during the same period of 2010,” said DeBenedictis.Aqua America has continued to expand its operations and completed 10 acquisitions of water and wastewater utility systems this year. The company continues to follow its growth strategy of expansion in areas where it has critical mass and pruning operations that do not fit into the company’s future growth plans. In 2011, the company announced plans to expand in the energy-rich states of Texas (5,300 customers) and Ohio (57,000 customers) through the purchase of American Water Works Company, Inc. (NYSE: AWK) operations in these states. Due to the lack of economies of scale, Aqua sold its Missouri utility operations (3,700 customers), to American Water Works in May 2011. In July 2011, Aqua announced plans to sell its New York operations (51,000 customers) to American Water Works as well as the sale of its Maine operations (16,000 customers) to Connecticut Water Service, Inc. (NASDAQ: CTWS). The company expects to recognize a book gain on the Maine transaction in the first quarter of the year as the sale was completed January 1, 2012. Following the upcoming sale of New York, Aqua America will have concentrated its regulated operations in nine states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Indiana and Virginia), along with a small unregulated operation in Georgia.
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