JOPLIN, Mo. - Liberty Utilities announced the completion of the acquisition and merger of The Empire District Electric Company (Empire). Liberty owns and operates regulated water, wastewater, natural gas and electric transmission and distribution utilities in 13 states, including Missouri. It is a subsidiary of Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp., based in Canada.

“We have been working together with Empire to meet all state and federal requirements over the last several months and we’re looking forward to delivering high-quality service to all of our new electric, water and natural gas customers for decades to come,” said David Pasieka, President of Liberty Utilities.

Before the merger, Empire provided electric, natural gas and water service to about 218,000 customers in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. A subsidiary of Empire also provides fiber optic services.

The companies have been working together in the months leading up to the closing of the transaction to ensure a seamless transition. Customers will continue to contact or visit Empire at the same office locations, website and telephone number as they have in the past.

Brad Beecher, president and CEO of Empire, also stated during the merger process that customer rates will not increase as a result of the merger. That doesn’t mean they won’t go up because of other issues and investments the utility makes, he said, but the impact should be less because the merger's "efficiencies of scale" will allow the utility to slow future rate increases.

Customers will notice a refreshed Empire logo on the company’s website, and it will be introduced onto customers’ bills, company vehicles, employee uniforms, office buildings and printed materials over the coming months. Customers can be assured that the local team who serve them today will continue to serve them in the future. Operational decisions about safe and reliable service, infrastructure improvement, customer care, and more will continue to be local decisions, made by the same managers and employees who have served the community well for so many years. Liberty Utilities is committed to providing best-in-class customer care delivered at the local level and we will continue to be an active participant in the community. We look forward to being a good neighbor that remains focused on safety and reliability, corporate responsibility, and job creation. The refreshed Empire District logo pays respect to the company’s proud history, while welcoming it into the Liberty Utilities family.

"Our Company has been honored to serve our customers for over 100 years,” said Beecher. “We have no doubt that Liberty Utilities, as an experienced utility that prides itself on community-oriented values, local management and customer service, commitment to safety, and a focus on corporate responsibility, will head a utility system that continues to make decisions in the best interest of our customers in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.”

Final state and federal regulatory approvals needed to complete the transaction were granted recently. The sale to Liberty Utilities was originally announced in February 2016.

Beecher also said that Algonquin envisions making Empire the headquarters for Liberty Central, so rather than serving 218,000 customers in four states, Empire will be the regional headquarters of electric, water and gas operations for 340,000 customers in seven states, including Illinois, Iowa and Texas.

Empire on Sunday also established Jan. 10 as the payment date for the special pro-rated dividend declared Dec. 22 by its board of directors. The amount of the dividend is about 8.86 cents per share, payable to shareholders of record as of Dec. 30, 2016. The pro-rated dividend is the daily equivalent of the utility's current quarterly dividend rate of $0.26 per share, calculated from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, 2016 — the day prior to the effective day of the merger.