(Recasts with CEO comments about asset sales)
By Rod Nickel and Akshara P
Feb 16 (Reuters) - Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc does not see a need to sell more assets in 2018 than it has publicly targeted but will keep its options open, its chief executive officer said on Friday.
Earlier Friday, Enbridge posted a quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimate after transporting a record number of barrels of liquids including crude oil.
Citing sources, Reuters reported on Thursday that the Calgary, Alberta-based company plans to accelerate its divestment program by selling assets valued at about C$8 billion ($6.4 billion) in 2018, more than twice its initial sale target.
CEO Al Monaco did not deny the report but told analysts on a conference call that they should treat it with caution “since it’s not from us.”
In November, Enbridge forecast a C$3 billion target for non-core asset sales in 2018, and has identified C$10 billion in total of non-core assets to divest over time.
The company is under pressure to reduce debt from investors and rating agencies, following a $28 billion merger last year with Spectra Energy Corp.
“There is certainly nothing that indicates to us that additional asset sales would be required, but obviously as we always would, if there are ideas that come forward or offers put on the table that we can’t turn down, then we’ll probably have a look,” Monaco said on the call.
Interest has been strong from potential buyers in renewable and gathering and processing assets, Monaco said.
Enbridge could sell its Midcoast Gas Gathering and Processing business in the United States as a block or in parcels, he said.
The company’s shares rose 0.6 percent in Toronto and 0.4 percent in New York.
Enbridge, North America’s largest energy infrastructure company, transported 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil on its Mainline system across Canada and the United States during the fourth quarter, up from 2.5 million bpd a year earlier.
Net income fell to C$207 million ($166 million), or 13 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter, from C$365 million, or 39 Canadian cents, a year earlier.
Enbridge said it took a C$4.55 billion charge in the latest quarter to write down assets in the gas transmission and midstream business.
Excluding items, the company earned 61 Canadian cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate by 5 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. ($1 = C$1.25) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Akshara P in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Jeffrey Benkoe)