Enbridge Earnings Q2 2012: Profit Slips To $11 Million, Revenue Down

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CALGARY - Pipeline and utility company Enbridge is confident it can meet all of the safety demands by the B.C. government for the company's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, chief executive Patrick Daniel said Thursday.

"We feel absolutely confident that we can do that," Daniel told a conference call to discuss the company's latest quarterly results.

The B.C. government said last month the company must include "world-leading" plans to prevent and respond to a marine or land oil spill as well ensure aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed in order to win the province's support.

The province also wants to receive what it calls a "fair share" of the economic benefits that reflects the risk borne by the province.

The comments by the company came as it reported a second-quarter profit of $11 million or a penny per share on $5.72 billion in revenue, down sharply from $302 million or 40 cents per share on $6.94 billion in revenue a year ago due to unrealized losses on a hedging program.

Excluding one-time items, Enbridge reported an adjusted profit of $277 million or 36 cents per share, up from $258 million or 34 cents per share a year ago.

The average analyst estimate had been for 38 cents per share of adjusted earnings and $5.18 billion in revenue, according figures compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The company attributed the year-over-year improvement in adjusted earnings to increased contributions from its Canadian Mainline and Spearhead Pipeline, which benefited from strong volumes.

The gains were partially offset by lower earnings from Enbridge Gas New Brunswick and increased financing costs.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Kwan, who rated Enbridge an "outperform" with average risk, said the results were roughly in line with expectations.

"The liquids pipelines and gas distribution segments were close to our estimates with modestly lower-than-forecast results from sponsored investments and higher corporate costs being mostly offset by better-than-expected results from gas pipelines, processing and energy services," Kwan wrote in a note to clients.

"We note that the earnings were boosted by the lumpy recognition of shipper make-up rights on Spearhead, the volatile Energy Services business and Aux Sable. Further, the Canadian Mainline and the Regional Oil Sands System results were negatively impacted by higher operating costs."

Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) has faced scrutiny and criticism in recent days following a spill last week from its Line 14 pipeline running through Grand Marsh, Wisc., dumped roughly 1,200 barrels oil into a field that is part of the pipeline right-of-way.

The leak followed a recent report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board that likened Enbridge's handling of a spill two years ago in southern Michigan to that of the "Keystone Kops."

In that case, the ruptured pipeline spilled some three million litres of crude into wetlands, a creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Daniel said the company is learning from the spills and applying to lessons to improve its operations.

"Our ability to quickly detect and immediately respond to and contain the leak on Line 14 was critically important," he said.

Enbridge has met stiff resistance from First Nations groups and others over its plan to build the Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta and the West Coast of British Columbia so that Canadian crude can be shipped overseas.

The company recently announced a slate of safety improvements, such as thicker pipe and better monitoring, that would push the $5.5-billion project's price tag up by $500 million.

Aboriginal groups, environmentalists and others are among the many critics to voice concern over what a spill on the pipeline, or from a tanker on the West Coast, could have on northern B.C. ecosystems.

A Joint Review Panel had been expected make a recommendation to the federal cabinet on the pipeline by the end of 2012, but a decision is now expected a year later due to the sheer volume of comments it must hear.

Enbridge shares were down 36 cents at $40.15 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.

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