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TransCanada profits up 30 per cent in second-quarter Add to ...

Pipeline and utility giant TransCanada Corp. reported a 30 per cent jump in second-quarter profits Thursday as more of its projects came into service.

“We continue to experience strong earnings and cash flow growth as our company realizes the benefits of major projects that have started operations over the last year,” chief executive Russ Girling said in a statement.

In mid-June, the Calgary-based company’s Guadalajara pipeline in Mexico began shipping natural gas. A month earlier, its Coolidge power plant in Arizona started up under a 20-year power purchase arrangement with a local utility.

Last year, TransCanada brought its base Keystone oil pipeline – which delivers Canadian crude to the U.S. Midwest and Oklahoma – into service. It’s now trying to expand that line and extend it to the U.S. Gulf Coast – a proposal that has encountered fierce opposition for its potential environmental impacts.

TransCanada has also recently started up the Bison, Groundbirch and North Central Corridor natural gas pipelines, the Kibby wind project in Maine and the Halton Hills power generating station in Ontario.

Comparable earnings – a measure TransCanada believes best reflects the underlying performance of its operations by stripping out the effects of one-time items – were $357-million, or $0.51 per share.

That marked an improvement from earnings of $275-million, or $0.40 a share in the same 2010 period, and came in slightly below the $0.52 per share analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had been expecting.

Another measure of profitability, net income attributable to common shares, rose to $353-million, or $0.50 per share, from $285-million, or $0.41 per share.

Revenues increased to $2.1-billion from $1.9-billion.

The company said it would keep its quarterly dividend steady at $0.42 per share.

TransCanada is awaiting a U.S. State Department decision on its massive $7-billion (U.S.) Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which would extend an existing pipeline system to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The first stages of Keystone already deliver crude from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest and Oklahoma.

Earlier this week, legislators in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to force a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by Nov. 1. A preliminary environmental assessment is expected by mid-August.

But the bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, which is still controlled by Democrats, some of them vehemently opposed to the pipeline.

Critics of Keystone XL say the project would increase U.S. dependence on “dirty” oilsands crude. There are also concerns a spill could harm key drinking water sources.

Supporters, however, say the project will offer a big boost to the U.S. economy and reduce the amount of crude the United States has to import from unfriendly regimes.

Last week, TransCanada’s six-month-old Bison natural gas pipeline ruptured in rural Wyoming. At the time, a spokesman said it was too soon to tell when the $630-million (U.S.) line would be up and running again.

TransCanada is best known as North America’s largest natural gas shipper with a vast network of pipelines criss-crossing North America. It also has power generation assets across North America.

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