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TransCanada Corporation’s Future Visibility Remains Fuzzy

Pipelines companies are well known for having very visible growth due to the future projects these companies typically have in place. This is something investors love to see, as it makes it much easier to visualize how a company can perform in the future. However, for TransCanada Corporation (TSX:TRP)(NYSE:TRP) investors, its visibility is a bit fuzzy, despite the fact that some overhang cleared last week. The problem that remains is that the company’s major projects are no closer to becoming a reality.

What we can see

Last week was a busy week for TransCanada as it moved forward with two key projects. The first project was a new 50/50 joint venture it signed with Magellan Midstream Partners to connect TransCanada’s Houston tank terminal with Magellan Midstream’s East Houston terminal. While it’s just a US$50 million project, it’s still a key project because it will provide TransCanada’s Keystone and Marketlink shippers to Magellan’s Houston and Texas City crude oil distribution system.

The other project that became a bit more visible is the company’s North Montney Mainline project. This was after the National Energy Board issued a report recommending the $1.7 billion project. Due to its size, it’s a needle-moving project for the company, as it is anchored by Progress Energy, which has signed up for 2.1 Bcf/d of the pipelines’ 2.4 Bcf/d of capacity.

What is still not clear

Despite all of the good news TransCanada reported last week, the company did receive one piece of bad news that overshadowed everything. Quebec said that it needs more evidence from the company that its Energy East pipeline will benefit the province now that TransCanada has scrapped a marine terminal to export oil. Without Quebec’s support, the $12 billion project might not get the green light.

That said, TransCanada argues that the project will create a lot of jobs in Quebec, as $5 billion will be spent on building the pipeline and 10 pumping stations in the province, as well as on maintenance. Not only that, but up to $2 billion in taxes would be paid in Quebec in the next 20 years. TransCanada views this investment as fueling an economic boost in the province. However, Quebec isn’t so sure, which is why it wants more information before it gives its blessing.

Energy East appears to be stuck in neutral and is becoming another political hot potato for the company, which still has the $5.4 billion Keystone XL stuck in limbo. Neither of these projects appear to be any closer to being built, which really dims the visibility of TransCanada’s growth. That makes it much tougher for investors because this is a company that could drive very robust future growth if both projects get built, or meager growth if neither are approved.

Investor takeaway

TransCanada continues to move forward on smaller pipeline projects that provide the company with solid incremental returns. That said, its future rests on its ability to move forward with one of its two major oil sands pipelines projects. Neither appear to be close to getting approved, which really dims the outlook on this stock as the company needs to build at least one of these projects to fuel strong dividend growth in the years ahead.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

Fool contributor Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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