CALGARY – Far from being bored, as U.S. President Donald Trump alleged last week, TransCanada Corp. executives had one of their busiest years following the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, and are now busy convincing oil companies to recommit to the line.

In a wide-ranging speech Friday, Trump told attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference that TransCanada’s chief executive Russ Girling, who Trump called “Mr. So-and-so,” has suffered from mild ennui since then-president Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL.

“Now he’s doing nothing, calling his wife, ‘Hello darling, I’m a little bored. You know that pipeline project that has killed us, that has killed our company?” Trump said, speaking as if he were Girling.

“Knock, knock. Mr. So-and-so, the Keystone XL pipeline, sir, out of nowhere has just been approved,” Trump said, pretending to be an aide of Girling’s and referring to his own executive order approving the project and inviting TransCanada to reapply for permits for the $8.5-billion project.

Trump also said that TransCanada had been victimized by the “bloodsucking consultants” and lobbyists that live in Washington D.C. and had cost the company “hundreds of millions” in an attempt to win approvals for the pipeline.

TransCanada did book a $2.9-billion impairment charge in the fourth quarter of 2015 following Keystone XL’s rejection but has reportedly not been bored since the rejection.

TransCanada spokesperson Terry Cunha didn’t directly address Trump’s boredom jibe, but  noted that the Calgary-based pipeliner had completed a major acquisition by purchasing Houston-based Columbia Pipelines in 2016, and boosted its dividend and earnings.

“What, you’re bored so you bought Columbia Pipelines?” AltaCorp Capital analyst Dirk Lever said. “I think they’ve been extremely busy – probably very frustrated, but busy.”

The company’ stock has risen nearly 37.5 per cent since Obama denied the pipeline in Nov. 2015. During this time, Transcanada filed a US$15-billion lawsuit against the U.S., spent US$13-billion to buy Columbia Pipelines, sanctioned over US$3-billion in projects in Mexico and continued to push its $15-billion Energy East project through Canada’s regulatory process.

Ed Kallio, principal at Eau Claire Energy Advisory Inc., said through the Columbia Pipelines acquisition, TransCanada inherited two major natural gas pipeline projects. “Two big projects in their quiver means that they’re not bored,” Kallio said.

TransCanada currently has $45-billion worth of large-scale projects in its portfolio, including Keystone XL.

The company recently re-applied for a presidential permit for the project and asked Canadian oil companies to recommit their production to the pipeline that would connect Alberta with refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“While some of the shippers may increase or decrease their volume commitments, we do expect to retain sufficient commercial support to underpin the project,” Girling said during an earnings call this month.

Financial Post

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