A colder-than-normal winter may have not been especially pleasant for the Europeans who had to live through it, but investors in E.ON (NYSE:EON) got some warm feelings from it. Boosted by the gas business, this Germany-based but pan-European utility company managed to beat expectations for the first quarter.

Revenue climbed about 12% to over $21 billion in the first quarter, helped along by a 14% increase in the Central Europe power business and a very impressive 24% sales gain in the pan-European gas business. While higher costs sucked away some of this growth, the company still managed to post 7% growth in earnings before interest and tax and beat out expectations.

E.ON also managed flat year-on-year net income comparisons at about $1.9 billion. Granted, that doesn't sound impressive -- until you consider that the year-ago number included nearly $400 million in gains on sales.

As befits the company's vision of becoming a major power in European electricity and gas, E.ON made three notable acquisitions -- two electricity distributors in Bulgaria and one in Romania. The company also continues discussions with Russian company Gazprom about various gas business ventures and a possible Baltic pipeline, as well as possible ventures in the electricity market.

The company also appears committed to moving forward with its attempts to divest its stakes in Degussa AG and Ruhrgas Industries. These two stakes are worth quite a bit of money ($11.9 billion for Degussa and more than $1 billion for Ruhrgas), and a successful sale would go a long way toward financing further business acquisitions, as well as possibly strengthening the balance sheet and/or improving the dividend.

Although American utility stocks have been pretty hot of late, the world's second-largest player (in terms of market capitalization) doesn't seem to have gotten its full share of the love. Of the world's major utility companies traded on U.S. exchanges, only Korea Electric Power (NYSE:KEP) is cheaper in price-to-earnings or price-to-book terms. What's more, E.ON pays a very competitive dividend and has a strong balance sheet relative to industry norms.

Although there is no shortage of good electrical utility ideas competing for investment dollars -- DukeEnergy (NYSE:DUK), Motley Fool Income Investor pick Southern Company (NYSE:SO), and Suez SA (NYSE:SZE), just to name three -- investors looking into the utility space should give a good, long look to E.ON as well.

Southern Company is just one of the high-dividend-paying utilities in Mathew Emmert's Motley Fool Income Investor . If your portfolio could use a little juice, take a free, no-obligation trial to Income Investor today.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).