California utility assessing finances amid wildfire links

A PG&E truck carrying an American Flag drives past PG&E repair trucks in Paradise

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California's largest power company was battered on Wall Street Monday following reports that it's considering filing for bankruptcy protection in the face of at least $30 billion in potential liability damages from a spate of wildfires.

Bankruptcy "should be considered a credible risk by shareholders", they said. Lawmakers were in talks late previous year for legislation to protect the company from liabilities related to the 2018 fires.

"Last year, they were able to fool the legislature with the narrative of bankruptcy or bailout, and the legislature gave them a bailout", said Hill, who represents the Bay Area city where a PG&E gas pipeline exploded in 2010, killing eight.

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In a statement late Friday, PG&E said it's "working diligently to assess the company's potential liabilities as a result of the wildfires and the options for addressing those liabilities". The company is weighing using proceeds from the unit's sale to address death and injury claims arising from the recent wildfires, this source said.

The utility is considering the move for some or all of its businesses, Reuters reported on Friday.

S&P Global Ratings on Monday stripped PG&E Corp of its investment-grade credit rating, citing indications of a significant deterioration in the political and regulatory environment for the California power utility.

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)".

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PG&E said it is reviewing structural options to implement necessary changes while meeting customer and operational needs.

Dodd said findings of the regulator showed that the utility and its parent company, PG&E, need "systematic change", including on its board of directors "and in the executive suite", the newspaper had reported.

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

PG&E could wait to see how things play out in California, or it could opt for a bankruptcy proceeding that would prove more predictable and free the company from the mercy of state policy makers, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kit Konolige said.

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