CALGARY (CP) — A $76.3-million after-tax writedown of U.S. natural gas assets dragged Enbridge Inc., Canada’s largest gas distributor, to a $3.9-million loss in the third quarter. The loss of three cents a share compared with a profit of $64.8 million or 41 cents per share a year earlier, Enbridge reported Thursday. Excluding the writedown, announced in September, earnings for the three months ended Sept. 30 would have been $72.4 million. Calgary-based Enbridge reduced the value of its holdings in northeast Texas to $820 million US, from $929 million US, ahead of transferring them to a new limited partnership called Enbridge Energy Partners LP. ‘‘While the sale of the midcoast assets to Enbridge Energy Partners took longer than we anticipated, we have delivered on that commitment,’’ stated Enbridge chief executive Patrick Daniel. ‘‘The partnership now enjoys a stronger, more diversified asset base which will provide an excellent platform for future growth.’’ Enbridge said its nine-month profit was $542.5 million, up from $418.7 million a year ago. During the third quarter, Enbridge agreed to pay $300 million to buy 17 per cent more of the 3,000-kilometre Alliance pipeline, boosting its stake to 38 per cent in the line from Fort St. John, B.C., to Chicago. ‘‘Earnings in 2002 reflect the positive effects of growth in the liquids pipelines business, colder than normal weather in the gas distribution franchise area during the third quarter and the investment in 2002 in CLH of Spain, partially offset by higher corporate costs,’’ Daniel said. He said a marketing roadshow through the United States produced good results and ‘‘now U.S. investors have a solid understanding of Enbridge’s value and low risk profile, which is an anomaly in this climate.’’ Daniel, who has said Enbridge wants to expand its continental footprint, said good opportunities have come on the market but the company has so far been outbid on those that were of interest. And he said the company is in contact with Standard & Poor’s, seeking to wipe out the rating agency’s negative outlook. ‘‘They’re pleased with the progress we made with respect to our balance sheet and have every intent to continue their undertaking to remove the negative outlook once we fully complete the (sale of the midcoast assets) and that is proceeding on target.’’ After the earnings release, Enbridge shares (TSX:ENB) closed down 85 cents at $44.40.