Enbridge Inc. will increase its quarterly payouts to shareholders by 15 per cent in the new year, the pipeline operator announced Wednesday along with its financial guidance for 2012.
The outlook suggests the Calgary-based company, which operates a network of pipelines that carry crude oil through much of North America, will see its adjusted earnings go up by 6 per cent to 17 per cent in 2012 compared with this year.
Enbridge said its board has decided to increase the quarterly dividend on common stock to 28.25 cents per share, payable March 1, 2012, to shareholders of record as of Feb. 15.
It also said it expects $1.58 to $1.74 per share of adjusted earnings in 2012.
That would be about in line with analyst expectations and up from an estimated $1.49 for 2011, according to figures compiled by Thomson Reuters.
According to the company's latest financial report, issued a month ago, the company expected to be slightly above its 2011 guidance range of $1.38 to $1.48 of adjusted earnings per share.
The company's outlook comes at a time of increased scrutiny on pipeline companies such as Enbridge and TransCanada Inc. because of concerns about the potential for environmental damage from spills.
Enbridge learned this week that two of its pipeline projects will take longer to get through the regulatory process than anticipated.
The panel weighing the controversial Northern Gateway oil pipeline said Tuesday it will likely make its decision in about two years, rather than in early 2013 as the company had expected.
Thousands of people are set to speak at hearings across northern British Columbia and Alberta between January of next year and April 2013.
The proposed 1,200-kilometre pipeline would ship oil sands crude from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto tankers that could transport it to Asia – providing exporters with alternatives to the United States, the biggest importer of Canadian crude.
On Monday, the National Energy Board said it would begin hearings this fall into Enbridge's proposal to reverse the flow of its Line 9. The company had hoped to begin work on the $20-million project in early 2012, with startup anticipated in the fall of next year.
In both cases, Enbridge said it respected the public's interest in the projects and would co-operate with the regulatory process.
Opposition to major pipeline projects has grown since the disastrous offshore spill in the Gulf of Mexico after BP's leased Deepwater Horizon rig experienced a fatal explosion in April 2010.
The pipeline industry's reputation as a relatively reliable and environmentally safe way to transport oil was tarnished by a much smaller spill in July 2010, involving an Enbridge pipeline in southern Michigan.
There have also been periodic small-scale leaks at the original Keystone pipeline and a major spill at the Rainbow pipeline in northern Alberta operated by Plains Midstream Canada.