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A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014.

Andrew Cullen/Reuters

TransCanada Corp., the company proposing the $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline, said fourth-quarter profit rose as it began oil shipments on the southern leg of the project.

Net income climbed to $458-million, or 65 cents a share, from $420-million, or 59 cents, a year earlier, the Calgary-based company said in a statement on Marketwired Friday. Excluding one-time items, per-share profit beat the 63– cent average of 12 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The company declared a quarterly dividend of $0.52 per common share, an increase of 8 per cent over the $0.48 paid in each of the previous four quarters.

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TransCanada's oil shipments climbed as the company started deliveries last year from Oklahoma to Texas on its Gulf Coast line, the southern leg of the original Keystone XL proposal. The Gulf Coast line is one of several projects that will feed the company's plan to double its dividend growth rate through 2017 as it grapples with weak power prices in Alberta. The company announced an 8 per cent dividend boost Friday.

TransCanada is still awaiting a U.S. decision for its Keystone XL project, which would carry oil-sands crude to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The company is also proposing to build North America's biggest oil pipeline, the 1.1 million– barrel-a-day Energy East project from Alberta to Canada's Atlantic Coast. A boom in production from Alberta's oil sands and North Dakota's oil shale has led to bottlenecks as companies seek to ship their output to customers.

The project requires approval from the U.S. State Department, which must review it because it would cross an international border. Environmentalists have attacked the project for posing a risk of oil spills. President Barack Obama has said he'll reject Keystone XL if it would lead to a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

The company said it expects a $600-million project, known as the Upland pipeline, will be in service in 2018. Upland, which was announced last year, would connect North Dakota with Energy East in Canada.

"We continue to see no material threat to management's dividend growth guidance of at least 8 per cent through 2017," Carl Kirst, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets in Houston, wrote in a Feb. 3 note. That's true even without the startup of major new pipelines such as Keystone XL, Energy East and two gas conduits planned to Canada's Pacific Coast.

TransCanada reported before the start of regular trading on North American markets. The stock, which has eight buy, six hold and three sell recommendations from analysts, rose 0.3 per cent to $58.50 Thursday in Toronto.

TransCanada owns about 57,000 kilometers (35,500 miles) of pipelines, according to its website. The company also owns or partly owns 21 power plants capable of generating more than 11,800 megawatts, equivalent to about 9 per cent of Canada's total installed capacity.

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