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TransCanada Corp. (TRP-T) reported a 14-percent drop in quarterly profit on Friday as the natural gas-transport segment of the country's biggest pipeline company was punished by North America's depressed gas industry.
TransCanada, which decided recently to chop its Alberta-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline into two pieces to get the controversial project started, said net income fell to $352 million, or 50 cents a share, in the first quarter from $411 million, or 59 cents a share, a year earlier.
Comparable earnings, which exclude most one-time items, fell to $363 million, or 52 cents a share, from $423 million, or 61 cents a share.
That lagged an average estimate among analysts by 2 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The worse-than-expected result suffered from weakness in all of the company's natural gas-related segments, UBS analyst Chad Friess said in a research note.
Overall revenue rose 2 percent to $1.91 billion.
TransCanada said the contribution of its Canadian gas mainline to profits shrank in the quarter due to weaker regulated returns.
The company has been struggling in recent years with falling volumes on its gas transport system to Eastern Canada from Alberta, which was the foundation of the company when it was established in the 1950s.
In June, the National Energy Board will hold a hearing on TransCanada's application to change the system's business structure to reflect shifts in the gas industry that have followed the development of vast shale gas supplies throughout the continent. The hearing will also address tolling for this year and next with gas prices hovering around 10-year lows.
TransCanada's U.S. pipelines also generated lower earnings.
Offsetting weakness in natural gas transport was the first phase of the Keystone oil pipeline, a portion of which had higher fixed tolls
In February, after the U.S. government rejected the full $7.6 billion Keystone XL project, saying it could not work toward a tight timeline set by Congress, TransCanada said it would build the portion between Cushing, Oklahoma, and Gulf Coast refineries first.
The company expects the Gulf Coast project to be in service in mid to late 2013.
TransCanada said it plans to reapply to the U.S. State Department to build the cross-board portion in hopes of having the full project running by late 2014 or early 2015.