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Is Enbridge's fate tied to Gateway? New analysis suggests otherwise

Recent weeks have not been fortuitous for Enbridge. The pipeline company was eviscerated by U.S. regulators, deemed the 'BP of the midwest' after a Wisconsin oil spill, and now finds itself at the centre of a high-profile political spat.

But is the Calgary-based firm truly "beleaguered", as one recent Los Angeles Times story described it? Not according to a new Bloomberg analysis, which reveals the pipeline company's shares to be trading at their highest level in nearly thirty years.

"There have been a couple of stumbles along the way with high profile leaks, but they have not stemmed the tide of strong earnings and strong dividend growth," Chicago-based portfolio manager Randle Smith recently told Bloomberg News.

Enbridge's price-to-earnings ratio -- an important measure of profitability -- outperformed 81 percent of the company's international peers last week, according to Bloomberg.

The analysis also revealed the company to have the second-highest large stocks value on the Standard & Poor's/TSX Composite Index.

The disconnect between Enbridge's "beleaguered" public image and its strong financial performance may be partly explained by the sheer size and scale of the firm's operations.

Enbridge is the largest transporter of Canadian crude oil to the U.S., and owns and operates a 24,600 km oil pipeline network, Canada's biggest.

All told, the company is designing or building projects worth $17 billion, including $3.7 billion alone for expansions in Alberta.

Yet it is Enbridge's $5.5 billion Northern Gateway proposal -- which has come to symbolize everything from Canada's relationship with First Nations to fears about the growing global influence of China -- that draws nearly all the media attention, much of it negative.

The company recently noted, however, that it's right now developing four other projects of comparable size and cost to Gateway.

"People," outgoing President and CEO Pat Daniel told Bloomberg News last April, "should not link the fortunes of Enbridge to Gateway by any means."

The implication being that Northern Gateway is not as critical to the company's financial future as it might sometimes appear.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change issues for The Tyee.

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