* Now sees Keystone XL in service by early 2015
* No date for reapplying for Presidential Permit
* Q4 comparable profit C$0.52/shr vs est C$0.53
* Boosts quarterly dividend by C$0.02 to C$0.44/shr
* Shares rise 1.3 pct in Toronto (Adds comments, details; in U.S. dollars unless noted)
By Scott Haggett
CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 14 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp , the backer of the Keystone XL pipeline project, said on Tuesday it still intends to build the controversial $7 billion line even as it again pushed back its already delayed schedule.
The company, which reported a 39 percent rise in net income on Tuesday, and boosted its dividend by 4.8 percent, said it expects to have the 830,000 barrel Alberta-to-Texas line up and running by early 2015 after last estimating it could be operating by late 2014.
The Obama administration has twice withheld approval for the Keystone XL line, once in November when it delayed a decision until after the 2012 presidential election and again last month, when Republican legislators tried to force the president to make a final decision on the line. Barack Obama rejected that bid because environmental studies were incomplete.
But TransCanada maintains that Obama’s denial was not based on the merits of the project and it plans to re-apply for the crucial Presidential Permit that will let it begin construction, though it did not say when it would take that step.
It also did not say if it was still mulling first completing the leg of the pipeline that would run from the bloated oil storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to Texas refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
“No new information was provided on the timing for a re-filing of the application or any alternative solutions involving accelerated approval or initial construction of sections of the project,” Chad Friess, an analyst with UBS Securities, wrote in a research note.
The Keystone XL line has been bitterly opposed by environmental groups concerned about spills along the route and the expansion of the Alberta oil sands. The oil sands are the world’s third largest crude storehouse, but producing its tar-like bitumen is more energy intensive and emits more greenhouse gases than conventional oil production.
TransCanada said it now has firm contracts to ship as much as 1.1 million barrels of crude per day on Keystone XL and its existing Keystone system, which takes oil to Cushing and southern Illinois.
The company said fourth-quarter net income rose 39 percent to C$375 million ($375 million), or 53 Canadian cents a share, compared with C$269 million, or 39 Canadian cents a share.
Comparable earnings, which exclude most unusual items, fell about 5 percent to C$366 million, or 52 Canadian cents a share, from C$384 million, or 55 Canadian cents, a year ago. That was just under the average analyst forecast of 53 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company said its lower comparable earnings were due to weaker results from its natural gas pipelines and reduced profit from its stake in Ontario’s Bruce Power nuclear generating station, and its U.S. power plants.
TransCanada also said it will raise its quarterly dividend by 2 Canadian cents to 44 Canadian cents a share.
Fourth-quarter revenue rose about 15 percent to C$2.36 billion.
TransCanada shares were up 52 Canadian cents to C$42.00 by midmorning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
$1=$1 Canadian Additional reporting by Shounak Dasgupta in Bangalore