By David Berman
The disappointment over the U.S. State Department’s decision on Thursday to delay its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is hard to find.
Oh sure, some people are up in arms about the move, which gives TransCanada (NYSE:TRP) time to explore other routes through sensitive – and vehemently protested – landscape in the United States. As my colleagues Barrie McKenna and Nathan VanderKlippe reported, some people believe the delay gives Canada one more reason to diversify away from the United States.
But the stock market and credit rating agencies seem to reflect another view, perhaps summarized this way: Whew. TransCanada’s share price was up 2.4% on Friday afternoon. While that is 7.3% below its high in October, it’s above the level it was at on Thursday, when the State Department released its decision.
According to Pierre Lacroix, an analyst at Desjardins Securities, the decision creates uncertainty and will impact TransCanada’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. He trimmed his target price on the stock by $1, to $46.
However, he maintained a “buy” recommendation on the stock, arguing that the shares trade at a valuation (based on estimated earnings) that is among the cheapest in the energy infrastructure space.
“(As) a result, we would view the downside as being marginal,” he said in a note. “We continue to believe that (Keystone XL) will ultimately be approved and generate substantial long-term earnings and cash flow growth for the company.”
Meanwhile, Moody’s Ratings Agency sounds downright jubilant over the State Department’s decision, though it left its credit rating on TransCanada unchanged: “The announcement is likely to cause a material delay in the potential construction of that pipeline, which will benefit (TransCanada’s) liquidity, leverage and free cash flow, providing the company with a greater financial cushion with which to undertake the project if and when it is fully approved.”