TransCanada (NYSE:TRP) is coming off a transformational year. That's after the Canadian oil and gas pipeline giant spent $13 billion to acquire U.S. natural gas pipeline company Columbia Pipeline Group and has invested 5.8 billion Canadian dollars since 2015 on organic growth projects. Those dual fuels not only powered a 24% increase in EBITDA and a 16% surge in funds from operations in the fourth quarter but should be the driving factors pushing first-quarter results higher. Here's a look at how the company's transformation will likely impact results in each of its five segments during the first quarter and in the future.
Canadian natural gas pipelines: Improvements are on the way
TransCanada's core Canadian gas pipeline segment was weaker last quarter where comparable earnings slid 5.8% to CA$599 million. Driving down results were lower volumes on its Mainline system. That said, profits in the Canadian gas pipeline segment should be on the upswing in 2017. The Mainline system, for example, recently completed the CA$310 million Kings North Connector and a CA$75 million compressor unit that should fuel improving results. It also secured new volume commitments with several shippers that should drive results higher later this year when those contracts start service. Finally, the company expects to place CA$1.6 billion of facilities in service across its NGTL System during this year. Added up, several drivers should help reverse the slide in this segment in 2017.
U.S. natural gas pipelines: Columbia should continue to fuel results
TransCanada's U.S. natural gas pipelines segment stole the show last quarter after earnings rose a blistering 97.6% to CA$569 million due to the addition of Columbia. Investors should expect more of the same in the first quarter. That's because the segment will once again benefit from the Columbia addition as well as incremental earnings from the acquisition of the company's former MLP Columbia Pipeline Partners, which closed during the quarter. On top of that, this segment will benefit from $2.3 billion in organic growth projects that will enter service by year-end and start to realize some of the expected $250 million in annualized cost synergies from the Columbia transactions.
Mexico natural gas pipelines: New projects will continue to drive growth
The other main contributor to growth last quarter was the company's Mexico pipeline business where earnings skyrocketed 135.3% to CA$120 million. Fueling the segment's growth was the completion of the Topolobampo pipeline last July and the recently finished Mazatlan Project, which started recognizing revenue last quarter. Both projects should drive results in this segment higher in 2017, while three more projects currently underway should fuel incremental growth in 2018 when they enter service.
Liquids pipelines: Volumes remain the story for now
The company's liquids pipeline segment also slumped during the fourth quarter after comparable earnings fell 10% to CA$305 million due to lower volumes on Marketlink, which it partially offset by higher volumes on the Keystone Pipeline. That said, given the rise in Canadian and U.S. oil output this year, it's possible that volumes on both pipelines improved during the first quarter.
Meanwhile, investors can expect 2017 to be a better year for this segment due to the anticipation that oil production volumes will continue to grow as well as the fact the company has two major projects nearing completion. The largest is the CA$1 billion Northern Courier project, which TransCanada is building to support Suncor Energy's (NYSE:SU) Fort Hills project in the oil sands. The project is expected to enter service later this year, just in time to support Suncor's start-up of Fort Hills, which should deliver first oil by the fourth quarter.
Energy: The last hurrah for a while
Finally, the company's energy segment was another key contributor to growth last quarter. That segment reported comparable earnings that increased 13% year over year to CA$305 million due to an increase in power prices in its western power subsidiary, the termination of a power purchase agreement in Alberta, as well as improved natural gas storage spreads. Those same tailwinds should positively impact results in the first quarter.
After the quarter's end, though, the company completed the sale of 13 hydroelectric facilities in the U.S. for $1.07 billion to repay debt incurred in the acquisition of Columbia. Meanwhile, the company still expects to close another $2.2 billion divestiture in the first half of this year. Those transactions will likely drag down results in this segment until growth projects come on line in the future years, including the CA$1.1 billion Napanee gas-fired power plant and as much as CA$6.4 billion of projects to extend the life of Bruce Power.
Thanks to last year's transformational acquisition of Columbia Pipeline Group, investors can bank on TransCanada delivering earnings growth in the first quarter. On top of that, the quarter should also benefit from the recent acquisition of Columbia's former master limited partnership and the completion of several growth projects across its portfolio. These drivers put the company on pace for a banner year, positioning TransCanada to continue to deliver dividend growth toward the high end of its guidance range.