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May 31, 2018

The Trudeau government is already trying to sell Trans Mountain

Major questions remain for construction of the Trans Mountain expansion: Hal Kvisle

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The Canadian government has already sent out marketing materials for the Trans Mountain pipeline to several potential buyers with the goal of selling by the end of July the project it only days ago agreed to buy, according to people familiar with the matter.

Greenhill & Co., a New York-based investment bank, was the exclusive financial adviser to the federal government on its $4.5 billion  purchase of the pipeline and is working on a sale ahead of an expected shareholder vote on the issue in late July, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The goal is to have a new buyer in place for the vote, and to potentially turn a profit, they said.

The government has reached out to several pipeline companies, pension funds, and asset managers about the potential sale, the people said. The deal would include the government’s guarantee to indemnify potential buyers against political delays, which was also offered to Kinder Morgan Inc. (KML.TO) if it were to push ahead with the pipeline project.

A spokesman for the Canadian finance minister acknowledged a search for owners, but signaled there’d be no hurry to sell if they can’t get a good price.

“We are looking for new owners and we’re working with Kinder Morgan to find a new owner or owners, but we will proceed with that transaction when it’s in the best interest of Canadians and when we feel there’s an appropriate value,” Daniel Lauzon, a spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau, said in a telephone interview.

A representative for Greenhill wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The federal government announced it would buy the Trans Mountain pipeline system and its planned expansion project Tuesday to ensure it gets built. The move ended weeks of speculation sparked by Kinder Morgan’s threat to abandon a project facing “unquantifiable risk” as the British Columbia government vowed to use every tool to block it.

The sale would include the expansion, related pipeline and terminal assets as well as the management team that was tasked with building the pipeline, the people said.

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove