October 26, 2012 / 12:07 PM / 5 years ago

TransAlta profit up on strong margins, lower costs

(Reuters) - Canadian electricity generator TransAlta Corp (TA.TO) reported a 12 percent rise in third-quarter profit on lower maintenance costs and strong margins in most of its businesses.

Net earnings attributable to common shareholders rose to C$56 million ($56.4 million), or 24 Canadian cents per share, from C$50 million, or 22 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, earnings were 18 Canadian cents per share.

Revenue for TransAlta, which operates power plants in North America and Australia that run on coal, gas and renewable energy, fell nearly 15 percent to C$538 million.

The company said its results were constrained by a loss in its energy trading business and by lower power prices in the Alberta and Pacific Northwest.

Power prices have sunk to at least 10-year lows in several regions as a result of low natural gas prices.

The company said on Friday it planned to build natural gas-fueled power projects in Canada with U.S.-based energy services provider MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.

"The creation of this partnership ... better positions the two companies to pursue significant growth opportunities in Canada," TransAlta CEO Dawn Farrell said in a statement.

Studies show that more than $200 billion of investment in power generation is needed in Canada over the next 20 years, Farrell said.

All development and construction or acquisition of approved projects will be funded equally, TransAlta said.

The company said on Thursday that it would maintain its quarterly dividend of 29 Canadian cents per share.

There had been concerns that the company may cut its dividend after it was forced by a regulator to keep open two generating units that it had planned to shut.

Reporting by Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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