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Why 2017 Was a Year to Remember for TransCanada Corporation

By Reuben Gregg Brewer - Jan 31, 2018 at 7:31PM

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TransCanada had a memorable year in 2017, but all the news wasn't good.

TransCanada Corporation's (TRP 1.54%) stock rose around 8% in 2017, an advance that was relatively good when you compare it to North American midstream oil and natural gas bellwether Enterprise Product Partners L.P.'s loss of around 2%. That said, business developments were the really memorable things last year. Here's a primer on the good and the bad news in 2017 that made the year so exciting for TransCanada Corporation and its shareholders.

The bad news

TransCanada Corporation is one of North America's largest midstream oil and natural gas companies, with pipelines assets crisscrossing Canada and spread throughout the United States. It even has a handful of natural gas pipelines in Mexico. Generally speaking, the $40 billion market cap company needs to build large projects to keep its businesses growing.   

A man turning valves on a pipeline

Image source: Getty Images.

The future got a little less certain in 2017 when TransCanada announced it had abandoned plans to build the Energy East and Eastern Mainline pipeline projects in its home country of Canada. The company took a roughly $1 billion Canadian charge. The bigger issue, though, is that these projects were worth roughly $16 billion Canadian and would have transported around 1.1 million barrels of oil a day. As The Motley Fool's Matthew DiLallo recently noted, the long-term growth picture for TransCanada is a lot less certain at this point in time.   

The good news

Luckily, though, all of the news from 2017 wasn't this bad. For example, the 2016 purchase of Columbia Pipeline Group helped TransCanada achieve solid earnings and cash-flow growth in the first half of 2017. Although the third-quarter numbers were a little soft, that was the result of one-time charges and asset sales (Canadian solar assets were jettisoned, for example) that will help fund the company's near-term investment plans. Full-year results should be good reading, overall, all things considered.   

A series of bar charts showing TransCanada's solid financial results through the first nine months of 2017

TransCanada's results were solid across the board through the first nine months of 2017. Image source: TransCanada Corporation. 

Operationally speaking, the midstream giant had some worthwhile successes. TransCanada brought a number of investments online in 2017, including the Northern Courier pipeline, the Rayne XPress pipeline, and and the Gibraltar pipeline. It also got the large Leach XPress project prepared to be successfully placed into service on January 1, 2018, setting this year up to be another good one on the top and bottom lines. The company is projecting as much as 10% earnings and dividend growth this year, by the way.   

That said, there was one more bit of good news: The company finally got approval from the U.S. government for the Keystone XL pipeline. There's still more work to be done before it gets built, but that was a major hurdle for TransCanada on a project that made the company headline news in the United States during the previous administration. In early 2018, TransCanada reported solid customer demand for the pipeline. Assuming things go smoothly from here, this project, which once appeared to be dead in the water, should help to soften the blow from the Energy East setback. 

A listing of TransCanada's project pipeline

TransCanada's project pipeline is still well stocked for the next few years. Image source: TransCanada Corporation. 

TransCanada had a good year on the project front in 2017. And, perhaps more importantly, it still has a sizable portfolio of projects to build over the next few years, as well. In fact, even as the company was reporting the cancellation of Energy East, it highlighted an impressive $24 billion Canadian investment pipeline that should support 8% to 10% earnings and dividend growth through 2020. This backlog, by the way, should give management plenty of time to find additional projects (and possibly acquisitions) to keep the company growing beyond that point.   

A lot of moving parts

Although TransCanada's business results were solid in 2017, that's probably not what investors are going to remember about the year. The big news, which was a mix of good and bad things, was on the operations front, with the cancellation of Energy East and the U.S. government approval of Keystone XL being the most headline-worthy events. But even underneath those news grabbing stories there were some pretty positive things to remember, like a series of new pipelines either coming on line or getting very near it. At the end of the day, there was a lot of going on at TransCanada in 2017 to make it a memorable year for most investors.

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