(Adds comment from board member)
By Ethan Lou
CALGARY, Alberta May 5 Lower oil prices and
alternative export routes are complicating negotiations for
shipper commitment for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL
pipeline project, and the company does not have a firm deadline
for concluding the talks, Chief Executive Russell Girling said
Speaking at a shareholders meeting after the release of
better-than-expected quarterly profits, Girling said while
producers are still supportive, they have less money.
"A lot of water has gone under the bridge over the last
seven or eight years since we've proposed that project," he
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration approved
Keystone XL in March. The expansion increases the capacity of
the current Keystone system from Canada's oil-producing Alberta
province to the Gulf of Mexico.
Girling said the project may cost less than the $7 billion
previously forecast due to the current downturn for the sector.
A future lowering of U.S. corporate taxes, as proposed by
Trump, would benefit TransCanada, Canada's No. 2 pipeline
operator, as the company has substantial business in the United
States, Girling said.
He said such a reduction might free up cash for the company
to pursue new projects.
The Trump administration has also threatened changes to the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which could affect
the energy sector as Canada exports nearly all of its oil south.
TransCanada board member Derek Burney, directly involved
with former NAFTA talks and informally advising the current
government on the issue, said the sector should not worry as it
is unclear what Trump wants and Canada will be firm on
Earnings from TransCanada's U.S. natural gas pipelines more
than doubled the past quarter, helped by its acquisition of
Columbia Pipeline Group Inc last year for about $13 billion.
Profit from its Mexico natural gas pipelines rose about 162
percent to C$118 million ($86.5 million).
The company's net profit attributable to shareholders rose
to C$643 million, or 74 Canadian cents per share, in the first
quarter ended March 31 from C$252 million, or 36 Canadian cents
per share, a year earlier.
The quarter included about C$48 million in charges, mainly
related to the acquisition of Columbia Pipeline Group. The
year-ago quarter included charges of about C$211 million, mainly
related to the termination of Alberta power purchase agreements.
Excluding items, the company earned 81 Canadian cents per
share, beating analysts' average estimate of 74 Canadian cents
per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
($1 = 1.3775 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Calgary, Alberta, Arathy S Nair in
Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry)