Friday, 22 March, 2019

California utility assessing finances amid wildfire links | AP business

A PG&E truck carrying an American Flag drives past PG&E repair trucks in Paradise Camp Fire: PG&E gets sued by insurance companies
Russell Knight | 08 January, 2019, 14:47

The filing isn't certain, the people said, but it may be enough to force the hand of state legislators who could come up with a rescue package.

In November, California Assemblyman Chris Holden said a bill would be introduced in January to help PG&E absorb potential liabilities from the latest wildfires.

News of the possibly bankruptcy filing sent shares of PG&E plummeting in after-hours trading on Friday.

But that is just a possibility, according to sources contacted by Reuters.

NPR first reported on the exploration of the gas unit sale earlier on Friday.

Three major insurance companies have filed a Camp Fire lawsuit against PG&E as a result of the billions of dollars in claims they are expecting.

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The Sacramento Bee reports that PG&E is already facing multiple lawsuits from wildfire survivors.

Despite the news, UBS analyst Daniel Ford raised his price target from $26 to $29, saying it assumes PG&E is "not liable for Tubbs and reflects a higher $15.1B net liability ($11.3B prior) for 2017 and 2018 due to the Camp fire but a lower cost of funding (7.5% versus 9.0% WACC)".

Filing for bankruptcy would shield PG&E from the liabilities, giving it time to figure out how to handle the claims.

The ratings agency said the downgrade reflects PG&E's recent announcement that its board was reviewing the company's management, finances, governance and structural options.

PG&E added that it has formed a special board committee that includes independent experts to advise on wildfire safety best practices.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy once before in 2001. Lawmakers were in talks late past year for legislation to protect the company from liabilities related to the 2018 fires. Furthermore, The Public Utilities Commission, Cal Fire, and federal prosecutors are all investigating the company as well. It had amassed too much debt by buying electricity, which it was then not allowed to recoup by increasing rates for its customers.

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