Eastern May Sell Assets, Entire Company
Eastern Enterprises stock price jumped more than 13% last week
to more than $44/share on news it is evaluating strategic
alternatives that could include share repurchases, joint ventures
or a sale of all or part of the company.
Eastern said it has retained Salomon Smith Barney to assist its
board and management in the review. The process will include an
assessment of its current strategy of consolidating New England gas
distribution utilities following regulatory approval of its mergers
with Colonial Gas and EnergyNorth, which are expected by next month
and next summer, respectively. The two LDC additions come on the
heels of Eastern's purchase of Essex Gas late last year. Combined
with subsidiary Boston Gas, the purchases will make the company the
largest gas distributor in New England, serving more than 800,000
customers throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
"As a result of the dramatic changes taking place within the
utility industry, Eastern's board of trustees and management
believe now is a prudent time to undertake a review of all of
Eastern's options," said CEO J. Atwood Ives.
Eastern also owns and operates Cincinnati-based Midland
Enterprises, a leading carrier of coal and a major carrier of other
dry bulk cargoes on the nation's inland waterways, and ServicEdge,
which is the largest unregulated provider of residential HVAC
equipment installation and service to customers in Massachusetts.
The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million ($0.11/share)
during the second quarter, compared with net income of $52.3
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