* Raises dividend 15 percent
* Forecasts 2010 EPS at C$2.50 to C$2.70
* LaCrosse plans await improved gas markets
* Shares fall 0.5 pct
By Scott Haggett
CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO). Canada’s No. 2 pipeline firm, raised its dividend on Wednesday and said it expects to boost earnings next year by around 12 percent as it completes new lines.
The company, which has more than C$12 billion ($11.4 billion) in new projects planned to move crude from Canada’s oil sands to refineries, will boost its dividend by 15 percent, raising the quarterly payout to 42.5 Canadian cents from 37 Canadian cents, with the first higher payment to be made on March 1, 2010.
Enbridge also forecast earnings per share rising to between C$2.50 and C$2.70 next year from an expected range of C$2.30 to C$2.36 for 2009. The company posted adjusted earnings, which exclude most one-time items, of C$1.88 a share in 2008.
Enbridge said its profit will be boosted by the completion of new projects for its pipeline business and contributions from wind generation and other green power projects.
“Our forecast earnings growth in 2010 is a direct result of the growth projects that we’ve brought into service this year ... and the C$7 billion of projects that we’ll bring into service in 2010,” Pat Daniel, Enbridge’s chief executive, said on a conference call.
Enbridge, which already carries the lion’s share of Canada’s crude exports to the United States, has been expanding its pipeline network to accommodate rising output from the oil sands. Over the next year it expects to complete its C$3.7 billion Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion to carry more crude from its terminal at Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin.
It will also wrap up work on its C$2.3 billion Southern Lights line, which will ship ultra-light oil from the U.S Midwest to northern Alberta, where it will be blended into heavy oil so it can flow on pipelines.
Both projects are on schedule and sticking to budget, the company said.
Enbridge “has been doing well over the last couple of years,” said Pierre Lacroix, an analyst at Desjardins Securities. “They’re good deliverers.”
Also on Wednesday, Enbridge said an open season on the planned LaCrosse pipeline to take gas from the Haynesville shale region of Texas and Louisiana had failed to drum up support at a recent open season -- used to gauge customer interest in the line.
However Daniel said the company is now talking to individual parties as it looks to attract needed volumes to support the 1 billion cubic feet per day line from Enbridge’s Carthage Hub in Texas to an interconnection with a Louisiana line.
“We ran a very short formal open season and did not get the level of commitment that we need in order to proceed with the project at this point in time,” Daniel said on a conference call. “However, there were some very encouraging indications during that open season and we are now entering into discussions ... to try to promote the volumes we need to make the project commercial.”
Despite the unsuccessful open season, Daniel said he was hopeful that, as gas markets improve, customers would commit enough gas to LaCrosse for the project to proceed.
“LaCrosse is still alive and well,” he said.
Enbridge shares fell 22 Canadian cents to C$46.30 on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock has risen 27 percent over the past 12 months.
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