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Atmos Energy Corporation (ATO - Snapshot Report), a distributor of natural gas, has declared the pricing of its previously announced public offering of common shares. The company plans to issue 8,000,000 shares at $44.00 per stock.  

Atmos Energy has also sanctioned a 30-day option to the underwriters for buying up to 1,200,000 additional shares in case of over-allotment. The company reveals that the share offering’s net proceeds of roughly $339.3 million will likely be utilized to pay back short-term debts. The proceeds are also expected to be expended on infrastructure development and normal corporate activities.

Atmos Energy announced its first-quarter fiscal 2014 (three months ended Dec 31, 2013) results on Feb 4, 2014. Quarterly earnings per share (excluding net unrealized margins) came in at 88 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 83 cents. Moreover, compared with the year-ago quarter’s adjusted profit, the results increased 18.9% from 74 cents. Increased natural gas demand for room heating purposes, owing to an extreme drop in temperature, aided the results.

Along with the first quarter of fiscal 2014 earnings report, Atmos Energy also provided its fiscal 2014 outlook. The company is planning to invest $830.0–$850.0 million of capital in fiscal 2014. Moreover, Atmos Energy maintains its fiscal 2014 earnings per share guidance at the $2.66-$2.76 range.   

Dallas, Texas-based Atmos Energy currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), implying that it is expected to perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months.

Meanwhile, one can look at better-ranked players in the gas distribution utility sector like National Fuel Gas Company (NFG - Snapshot Report), Questar Corporation (STR - Analyst Report) and Southwest Gas Corporation (SWX - Snapshot Report). All the stocks sport a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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