Eastern Enterprises stock price jumped more than 13% last weekto more than $44/share on news it is evaluating strategicalternatives that could include share repurchases, joint venturesor a sale of all or part of the company.

Eastern said it has retained Salomon Smith Barney to assist itsboard and management in the review. The process will include anassessment of its current strategy of consolidating New England gasdistribution utilities following regulatory approval of its mergerswith Colonial Gas and EnergyNorth, which are expected by next monthand next summer, respectively. The two LDC additions come on theheels of Eastern’s purchase of Essex Gas late last year. Combinedwith subsidiary Boston Gas, the purchases will make the company thelargest gas distributor in New England, serving more than 800,000customers throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“As a result of the dramatic changes taking place within theutility industry, Eastern’s board of trustees and managementbelieve now is a prudent time to undertake a review of all ofEastern’s options,” said CEO J. Atwood Ives.

Eastern also owns and operates Cincinnati-based MidlandEnterprises, a leading carrier of coal and a major carrier of otherdry bulk cargoes on the nation’s inland waterways, and ServicEdge,which is the largest unregulated provider of residential HVACequipment 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 $52.3million ($2.30/share).

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