November 30, 2017 / 4:51 PM / 17 days ago

Enbridge shares jump after company targets $2.3 billion asset sales

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc shares jumped 6.3 percent on Thursday after North America’s largest energy infrastructure company announced plans to sell C$3 billion ($2.3 billion) of non-core assets to focus on its “crown jewels.”

The company is also raising C$1.5 billion by selling new shares to pay down debt, and identified C$22 billion worth of projects it intends to complete through 2020.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company is realigning its focus as it looks beyond the $28 billion acquisition of Spectra Energy Corp that closed this year.

The takeover, the most significant energy deal since commodity prices crashed in mid-2014, highlighted how pipeline companies were under pressure to merge as they grappled with overcapacity and sliding tariffs that have slowed dividend growth and unnerved investors.

Enbridge’s shares had fallen by about a third to C$41.09 after the crash and have yet to fully recover, in line with the Canadian energy index.

They rose as much as 8.1 percent on Thursday before closing at C$48.65, valuing the company at $62 billion. The energy index rose 2.2 percent.

The company’s announcement addressed much of the uncertainty of the last earnings conference call, when executives had been vague on capital allocation and distribution policy, said Manash Goswami, senior vice president and portfolio manager at First Asset ETFs, which holds Enbridge shares.

“I think it’s pretty credible,” he said of the asset sales. “They’ve basically kind of addressed all the concerns that the market’s been hung up on.”

Among Enbridge’s future projects is its $6.5 billion Line 3 replacement program, its biggest yet, which seeks to upgrade an oil pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin.

The company said late on Wednesday it has also identified another C$7 billion in non-core assets to divest including unregulated gas gathering and processing businesses and onshore renewables in the United States and Canada.

Enbridge is speeding up debt reduction to help strengthen the balance sheet and increase its dividend by 10 percent.

Analysts broadly viewed the move as positive, even as some called the share issuance “unexpected” and lowered their price targets.

Chief Executive Al Monaco said Enbridge would concentrate on its three “crown jewel” businesses: liquids pipelines and terminals, natural gas transmission and storage and natural gas utilities.

“The acquisition of Spectra Energy has significantly diversified our asset base and opportunity set, and repositioned Enbridge for the future,” he said in a statement.

($1 = 1.2854 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Nia Williams and Ethan Lou; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Chris Reese

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