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Avista Corporation (AVA - Snapshot Report) has increased its quarterly dividend by 5.17%, bringing the annualized dividend to $1.22 per share from the previous payout of $1.16 per share.

Following the hike, the company will now pay a quarterly dividend of 30.50 cents as against the 29 cents paid earlier. The said dividend will be paid on Mar 15, 2013, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on Feb 22, 2013.

This is the company’s eleventh consecutive annual dividend increase. Last February, the company had increased the quarterly dividend by 5.45% to 29 cents per share.

The uninterrupted dividend increase demonstrates the financial strength of the company. After taking into consideration results of operations, cash flows, and financial and competitive conditions, the company has continuously paid dividends on its common stock. Net income from the regulated utility operations is the main source for dividends.

Other utility stocks that recently increased their dividend to compete in the market are NV Energy, Inc. that increased its quarterly dividend by 11.8% to 19 cents, Northeast Utilities (NU - Analyst Report) that increased its quarterly dividend by 7.1% to 36.75 cents per share and CMS Energy Corp. (CMS - Analyst Report) that increased its dividend by 6.25% to 0.255 cents per share.

Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities provide reliable and safe energy services to customers in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon. Avista's primary, non-utility subsidiary is Ecova that offers strategic energy management solutions.

The company is expected to release its fourth quarter results on Feb 20, 2013. The Zacks Consensus Estimates for fourth quarter and full year 2012 are currently at 45 cents per share and $1.52 per share, respectively.

Besides driving profits, the company seems focused on shareholder value creation. Apart from the dividend hike, the company has recently entered into agreements that if approved would complete the proceedings related to the general rate requests filed on Oct 11, 2012. This would provide certainty to the customers with respect to energy rates. Also, the rates finalized will be the lowest not only in the Northwest but also in the nation.

The company presently retains a short-term Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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