Citizens gas and electric sold to UniSource

Unisource Energy Corp.

of Tucson announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement to buy Citizens Arizona gas and electric divisions for $230 million.

Citizens' electric systems serve customers in Santa Cruz and Mohave counties; Citizens also serves gas customers in Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo and Apache counties.

The sale is subject to regulatory approval by the Arizona Corporation, Securities and Exchange and Federal Energy Regulatory commissions.

Officials with UniSource Energy expect that approval by late summer 2003, according to a press release.

Connecticut-based Citizens has been preparing to sell off its energy divisions to focus on its telecommunications business, Citizens Communications.

Citizens Communications will continue to serve Mohave County as well as customers in 24 states.

A Citizens official said he doesn't expect the change to have much impact on consumers.

"I think (UniSource's) plan is to retain the operation pretty much as it now is," said Tom Ferry, vice president of operations for Citizens Arizona Electric.

"Of course, there are no guarantees.

But that's the indication I have."

The purchase gives UniSource Energy the opportunity to expand its customer base by more than 40 percent in its home state, James S.

Pignatelli, chairman, president and chief executive officer stated in the release.

"We've built a strong, vertically integrated utility business, and this purchase complements that strategy," Pignatelli said.

Tucson Electric Power, UniSource Energy's principle subsidiary, provides electric service to more than 350,000 customers in and around Tucson.

Last year, the assets to be acquired generated about $175 million in revenue.

Citizens Utilities presently is involved in two utility rate cases with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

UniSource Energy will assume joint responsibility in those cases, the press release stated.

Citizens' electric customers should not see any change or reduction in the quality of service in the coming months, Ferry said.

An attempt to contact a UniSource Energy spokesman for comment this morning was not successful.