April 29, 2011 / 2:26 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 3-New projects, power prices lift TransCanada profit

* Q1 comparable EPS C$0.61 vs est. C$0.58

* Revenue C$2.24 bln vs. C$1.96 bln

* CEO confident Keystone XL will win U.S. approval (Adds CEO comments. In U.S. dollars unless noted)

By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta, April 29 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO), which is looking to build a controversial $7 billion pipeline to carry Canadian crude oil to Texas, said on Friday its quarterly profit rose 40 percent on contributions from several recently started pipeline and wind-power projects.

Strong Canadian electricity prices also bolstered results at the country's largest pipeline and power company.

TransCanada's net income rose to C$429 million ($452 million), or 59 Canadian cents a share, in the first quarter, from a year-earlier C$296 million, or 43 Canadian cents a share.

The company said comparable earnings, which exclude most one-time items, rose 30 percent to C$425 million, or 61 Canadian cents, from C$328 million, or 48 Canadian cents, beating the average analyst forecast of 58 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

TransCanada, known for its gas pipeline systems in Canada and the United States, said results were boosted by earnings from new projects such as the initial Keystone pipeline system as well as the Halton Hills gas-fired generating station, Bison and Groundbirch pipelines, and the second phase of the Kibby wind-power development.

High electricity prices, especially in Alberta, were a big factor in the earnings beat, UBS Securities analyst Chad Friess said in a research note.

Among TransCanada's assets is a power purchase arrangement for the Sundance A 1 and 2 power plant units in Alberta, shut down by operator TransAlta Corp TA.TO last year.

TransCanada is disputing TransAlta's claim that the units are beyond repair and should be demolished. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for May.

Meantime, TransCanada is still booking revenues and costs associated with the power purchase arrangement, it said.

TransCanada hopes to expand its Keystone system to ship 510,000 barrels of oil a day to Texas from Alberta, including a leg that would take crude from the glutted Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub to Gulf of Mexico refiners.

Keystone XL is bitterly opposed by environmental groups, as well as some state and federal legislators concerned over greenhouse emissions from expanded oil sands production and by the threat of oil spills in sensitive areas along the route.

This month, a supplementary environmental review added information on greenhouse gases, but did not fundamentally change the assessment that the project would improve U.S. energy security with limited impact on the environment.

TransCanada Chief Executive Russ Girling said he is confident the project will get the green light by the end of the year, despite the vocal opposition.

Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama said Canada is seen as an energy partner as he tries to cut reliance on crude from other countries. That is not what gives Girling confidence.

"I don't tend to read much, in my personal views, into the body language of politicians' speeches," Girling told reporters at the annual meeting. "What drives my confidence is facts."

Those include the State Department's commitment to rule by the end of this year and the supplemental environmental impact statement's conclusions, he said.

The proposal can easily pass such subsequent goals as bolstering energy security and creating jobs, he said.

Girling said he did not believe the project will suffer another cost increase. Earlier this year, the company increased its cost estimate for the entire Keystone system by $1 billion to $13 billion, blaming regulatory delays.

TransCanada shares closed 36 Canadian cents higher at C$40.71 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The shares have risen 11 percent over the past 12 months.

$1=$0.95 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson

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