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TransAlta slashes dividend, swings to quarterly loss

File photo of Dawn Farrell, president and CEO of TransAlta.

Todd Korol/Reuters

TransAlta Corp. cut its quarterly dividend Thursday as it reported a loss in the fourth quarter and the sale of its 50 per cent stake in CE Generation, Blackrock development and Wailuku to its partner MidAmerican Renewables for US$193.5-million.

The power producer said it would now pay a quarterly dividend of 18 cents per share, down from its earlier payment to shareholders of 29 cents per share.

TransAlta president and chief executive Dawn Farrell said the company's growth strategy is unchanged but its ability to executive the plan will be enhanced by the asset sale and dividend reduction.

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"An attractive, sustainable dividend continues to be an important part of our approach to delivering value to shareholders. In addition, a strong investment grade balance sheet is critical for enhancing our ability to compete for growth opportunities," Farrell said.

TransAlta reported a fourth-quarter loss Thursday of C$66-million or 25 cents per share compared with a profit of $39-million or 15 cents per share in the last quarter of 2012.

Revenue slipped to $587-million from $646-million.

The company said its comparable earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization including finance lease income and adjusted for certain other items fell to $242-million for the quarter compared with $312-million a year ago.

In its outlook for 2014, TransAlta said it expects comparable EBITDA to be in the range of $1.015-billion and $1.065-billion based on its outlook for power prices in Alberta and the Pacific Northwest.

Free cash flow is expected to be in the range of $293 to $343-million, or $1.07 and $1.26 per share, based on sustaining capital expenditures of approximately $350-million.

Editor's Note: An earlier online version of this Canadian Press article incorrectly said the dividend payable would be 28 cents a share in the second paragraph. This has been corrected to 18 cents.

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