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AltaGas shares fall as it eyes $1.5B in asset sales, cancels dividend program

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CALGARY, A.B. – Shares in gas and power company AltaGas Ltd. fell by as much as 16percentt after it announced asset sales and cancellation of a dividend reinvestment plan as part of a strategy to rebuild investor confidence.

The Calgary-based company’s stock fell by as much as $3.18 to $16.69 per share in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

It says it will attempt to sell assets worth $1.5 billion to $2 billion by the end of March, in addition to this year’s total of $2.4 billion in sales, and that it will cancel by year-end its plan which allowed stockholders to receive dividends in the form of discount-priced shares.

On a conference call, chairman and acting co-CEO David Cornhill said the company intends to sell more of its interest in its northwest B.C hydro power facilities after selling a 35 percent stake for $922 million in June.

He said further detail on the sales and the company’s strategy will be determined after a new CEO is appointed in the next several weeks to replace former CEO David Harris, who agreed to resign in July following a never-specified “complaint” that was to be investigated by the board.

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AltaGas sold assets this year to help pay down a bridge loan used to buy U.S. utility company WGL Holdings for about $9 billion, a deal announced in January 2017 and completed about four months ago.

It is to realize at least $874 million through an initial public offering announced last week of its Canadian utilities and part of its renewable power assets, and in September sold natural gas midstream assets and power generating assets to raise $560 million.

“AltaGas has never been better positioned as a company in terms of the quality of assets and strength of opportunity,” said Cornhill on a conference call to discuss third-quarter results.

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“Unfortunately, we have never seen such lack of confidence in the company, which is evidenced by the stock which has significantly underperformed.”

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(THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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