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Shareholders of Umpqua Holdings Corp. and Sterling Financial Corp. have given their stamp of approval for Umpqua's $2 billion acquisition of Sterling, announced on Sept. 11.

Umpqua's shareholders also approved an amendment to Umpqua's articles of incorporation, effective at the closing of the merger, increasing the number of authorized shares of common stock to 400 million.

The acquisition will result in the West Coast's largest community bank, with approximately $22 billion in assets, $15 billion in loans and $16 billion in deposits. It will have about 5,000 employees and close to 390 branches across five states — Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California and Nevada.

Completion of the merger, which provides for Sterling to merge into Umpqua, is expected in the second quarter, pending regulatory approvals. Earlier this month, Sterling Financial announced it was selling six branch offices — five in Coos County and one in Douglas — to Walla Walla, Wash.-based Banner Bank, in anticipation of the Umpqua/Sterling consolidation.

Avista Corp. reported 2013 earnings grew 42 percent year-over-year, to $111.1 million from $78.2 million in 2012.

The Spokane-based utility, which provides natural gas for Southern Oregon customers, had per-share earnings of $1.85 in 2013, up from $1.32 in 2012.

Avista said it netted $31.7 million, or 53 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, up from $15.9 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier.

"Utility earnings benefited from colder than normal weather during the fourth quarter, which increased both electric and natural gas retail heating loads, and lower than expected operating costs," President and CEO Scott Morris said in a statement. "Annual results were positively impacted by warmer than normal summer weather and the resulting increase in electric cooling loads."

The company said increased power supply costs, mainly from the outage at the Colstrip generating facility in Billings, Mont., along with higher natural gas fuel prices, reined in earnings. Colstrip returned to full service in late January 2014. Morris said the company is moving toward completion of its purchase of Alaska Energy and Resources Co., with the deal expected to close by July 1.

Discover the variety of women entrepreneurs in the Rogue Valley at the annual Networking Share Fair hosted by Women Entrepreneurs of Southern Oregon, set for Thursday, March 6, at the Inn at the Commons, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford.

Businesses represented at the fair range from gifts and office support to food items, coaching and wellness products.

The three-hour event begins at 5 p.m. and admission is free. Additional information is available at www.wesoweb.org.

Compiled from staff reports