UtiliCorp United announced Monday that it has changed its corporate name to Aquila Inc., the energy trading and risk management subsidiary in which it sold an interest to the public in 2001 and then later re-acquired. The company’s common stock now trades on the New York, Pacific and Toronto stock exchanges under the symbol ILA, which has replaced the UtiliCorp symbol UCU.

In another development, Aquila said it has entered into an agreement to buy an 80% interest in Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp.’s Avon Energy Partners Holdings subsidiary, the holding company for Midlands Electricity plc, for $264 million. Aquila plans to operate Midlands Electricity, the fourth largest regional power company in the United Kingdom with more than 2.3 million customers. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close by mid-April.

The corporate name change follows UtiliCorp United’s decision last November to re-purchase the 20% interest in Aquila that it had spun off to the public in April 2001. The company’s action required the approvals of the Securities Exchange Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state regulators.

Although it did not cite the financial problems at Enron Corp. as the reason for its action, UtiliCorp United told FERC that its decision to re-purchase publicly held Aquila shares was based on “recent significant changes in the merchant energy sector,” as well as the downturn in the “general economy and the impact of these changes on the capital markets and UtiliCorp’s strategic direction.” The buy-back of Aquila shares from the public was completed in January.

Adoption of the Aquila name reflects the strategic focus of the re-combined company, according to the energy company. “The combinations of stable cash flows from the company’s network business and superior risk management and wholesale energy expertise in the merchant business position Aquila to emerge as one of the industry’s premier leaders,” said Robert K. Green, Aquila’s CEO.

The company’s wholesale energy trading and risk management business will be known as Aquila Merchant Services, and the regulated electric and natural gas utilities in the U.S. will operate under the name of Aquila Networks, the company said. UtiliCorp Networks Canada, which distributes electricity in Alberta and British Columbia, will transition to the name of Aquila Networks Canada by the end of the year, it noted.

Along with the new corporate name, Aquila said it was launching a new company brand, and adopting a new “kaleidoscope symbol” as the company’s logo.

Kansas City-based Aquila is considered one of the largest wholesalers of power and gas in North America and operates electricity and power distribution operations in seven states, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. At the end of 2001, it had reported assets of $11.9 billion and 12-month sales of $40.4 billion.

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