SAN FRANCISCO — California’s largest power company is getting battered in midday trading Monday on reports that it’s considering bankruptcy protection in the face of potentially crippling liability damages from a spate of wildfires.
No cause has been determined for the source of California’s Camp Fire, but PG&E reported an outage around the time and place the fire was ignited. Another transmission line malfunctioned a short time later, possibly sparking a second fire.
Reuters, citing anonymous sources, reports that the company has considered seeking financial shelter in bankruptcy court with potential liabilities reaching into the tens of billions.
Shares tumbled 22 percent Monday, the latest severe sell-off for the company since November and the outbreak of the state’s deadliest recorded wildfires.
PG&E Corp. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Outside Advice Sought
On Friday, PG&E said its board of directors is engaging outside experts for advice on wildfire safety, but it did not identify any potential plans to address liability or safety.
“We want to tap fresh perspectives and additional expertise to help address the changing nature of PG&E’s business and the challenges it faces now and in the future,” the board said in a statement.
NPR Report: PG&E Might Sell Natural Gas Division
National Public Radio, citing an anonymous company official and a former employee, reported that PG&E is exploring selling off its natural gas division — a major part of the company — to set up a fund for potential wildfire claims.
It is also looking into selling real estate assets, including its San Francisco headquarters, NPR reported.
The utility is facing numerous lawsuits involving wildfire losses and scrutiny of its power line safety by a U.S. judge overseeing a separate criminal case against it.
PG&E On Financial Hot Seat Because of Wildfires
State fire investigators blamed the utility’s power lines for causing several wildfires in October 2017.
Investigators have not determined the cause of a massive wildfire that destroyed the town of Paradise in November. PG&E reported an outage around the time and place that the fire ignited.
The fire killed at least 86 people and was the deadliest in California history.