What’s Up With the Jump in Kinder Morgan Short Interest?

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In the two-week period ending September 29, shares of Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) traded nearly flat, down just 0.8%. At the same time, short interest jumped by more than 14% to 41.1 million shares, and days to cover rose from about three to five. The addition of 5.14 million shorted shares brings the total to 2.1% of Kinder Morgan’s floated shares, a sharp increase from 1.32% in the prior period.

Some of the increase in short interest may be due to a stop-work order placed on the company’s Canadian subsidiary, Kinder Morgan Canada, which is currently expanding its Trans Mountain pipeline system. The Trans Mountain transports crude from western Alberta to the coast of British Columbia and the company is boosting its capacity from around 300,000 barrels a day to nearly 900,000 barrels a day.

Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) ordered the work stoppage on construction work that the NEB had not approved. The pipeline expansion received federal government approval in November 2016, but the NEB must approve the exact route and that has not yet been done.

Kinder Morgan had installed mats in one waterway that would keep fish from spawning in the areas and planned to begin installing similar mats in others. The company said this would keep the fish from being harmed during construction and had to be done before the spawning season began. The company had jumped the gun, however, and NEB ordered the work stopped.

This incident may not seem like much, but Kinder Morgan already had begun waffling on its public pronouncements that the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain project was on schedule for its planned completion in late 2019. The project is getting pushback from the provincial government of British Columbia and the country’s First Nations.

Add to that the current rancor between Canada and the United States over the recent decision by the U.S. Commerce Department to impose an 80% tariff on the importation of passenger planes into the United States and it’s not hard to come up with a scenario that drags out the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and lifts its cost.

Kinder Morgan stock closed at $18.95 on Tuesday, in a 52-week range of $18.23 to $23.01. Shares traded essentially flat in Wednesday’s premarket session. The stock’s 12-month consensus price target is $24.72.