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Enbridge sees new pipeline opportunities in Mexico's reforming oil sector

CALGARY - The chief executive of Enbridge Inc. said there could be opportunities to build new pipelines in Mexico as the country opens its energy industry up to outside investment.

"They're obviously in significant need of pipeline infrastructure," said Al Monaco, adding that goes for both oil and natural gas.

Mexico is in the process of ending the government's 75-year monopoly over energy through a series of reforms. It hopes private investment and foreign expertise can help revive its oil and gas production, which has been waning.

A delegation of Mexican government officials and business leaders visited Calgary earlier this year to tout the opportunities.

"Obviously these changes that have been brought down are very positive in that they're going to encourage a lot more investment," Monaco said in a conference call Friday to discuss the company's second-quarter results.

However, Enbridge (TSX:ENB) has no immediate plans to enter Mexico, he said.

"We're going to watch to see how these regulations work through and we'll keep our finger on the pulse and see where we go there."

Enbridge rival TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) already has a foothold in Mexico, with two pipelines operating and expansions in the hopper. It, too, has indicated the Mexican reforms could mean opportunities for new projects.

Enbridge executives also discussed the possibility of building a new rail unloading facility in Illinois that would help bring Alberta crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Its tentative start-up date would be early 2016.

The facility, which is expected to have a capacity of about 140,000 barrels per day, would be adjacent to the start point of Enbridge's Flanagan South pipeline. Flanagan South is slated to start shipping crude to Cushing, Okla., later this year. From there, the oil can make its way to the lucrative Gulf Coast through the Seaway pipeline, partly owned by Enbridge.

Earlier Friday, Enbridge posted a second-quarter profit of $756 million or 91 cents per share, boosted by its hedging program and other one-time items. The result compared with a profit of $42 million, or five cents per share, in the same quarter of 2013.

The company's adjusted earnings were $328 million, or 40 cents per share, compared with $306 million, or 38 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Analysts had been expecting 39 cents of adjusted earnings per share, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Enbridge said its second-quarter adjusted earnings growth was primarily driven by liquids pipeline business.

Cash flow from operating activities was $812 million, down from $937 million year-over-year.

In June, the federal government gave the green light to Enbridge's multibillion-dollar Alberta-to-West Coast Northern Gateway pipeline project, subject to 209 conditions recommended by a regulatory panel late last year.

The pipeline would connect growing oilsands crude with buyers on the other side of the Pacific.

But shovels aren't likely to hit the ground any time soon, as Enbridge looks to win support from communities along the route. Opponents have also vowed to fight the project in court.

Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter

The Canadian Press

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