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UPDATE 1-CenterPoint to sell Arkansas, Oklahoma gas utilities for $2.15 bln

(Adds sale details, background)

April 29 (Reuters) - U.S. electricity provider CenterPoint Energy Inc said on Thursday it has agreed to sell its natural gas utility businesses in Arkansas and Oklahoma to privately-held Summit Utilities for $2.15 billion in cash.

Electricity providers around the United States are increasingly turning their focus to renewable energy as investors and customers clamor for cleaner power generation.

A sale would help funding CenterPoint’s turnaround strategy outlined last December, when the company floated plans to hike its spending as it tries to grow annual earnings by up to 8% and add renewable energy to its portfolio.

CenterPoint, which claims to be the largest gas utility in terms of customers, said the assets being sold include about 17,000 miles of pipeline in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texarkana that deliver natural gas to over half-a-million customers.

If Summit Utilities deal goes through, it would include $425 million in cash of unrecovered storm-related natural gas costs incurred in February, when parts of the United States experienced record cold temperatures due to winter storm Uri, which shut down natural gas and electricity infrastructure. (Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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