PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) is still trying to recover from the potential exposure of the 2018 Camp Fire and other liabilities put the company at risk of bankruptcy. It turns out that not all bankruptcies are created equal, and some do not wipe out the entire equity value for the common shareholders. When PG&E filed for bankruptcy, it was believed at the time that there would still be value for the common shareholders.
Citigroup now is telling clients that they should be buyers of PG&E shares as local lawmakers in California are negotiating a deal to keep the state’s top electric and gas utility viable. Citi now has a Buy rating on PG&E shares, and the firm’s $33 price target suggested that the value of PG&E shares could more than double from the prior $15.48 closing price.
While the company’s stock price was up more than 10% on the heels of this upgrade, investors need to understand that bankruptcies do not have universal outcomes. One issue that was pointed out, as has been discussed in prior weeks, is that lawmakers may reduce and or limit the liabilities for future wildfires for local utilities. The upgrade was based on recent public comments by California’s governor and conversations with teams in Sacramento pointing to legislation that could be passed within 60 to 90 days.
The 2018 Camp Fire has been credited as the deadliest in California’s history, killing at least 86 people and destroying roughly 14,000 homes. Formal responsibility for the Camp Fire has yet to be determined. Still, PG&E’s equipment has been liable in other large fires.
PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January and referenced that it had $30 billion or more in potential liabilities from fires in 2017 and 2018 alone. PG&E shares had even traded under $10 in January as the bankruptcy concerns mounted. 24/7 Wall St. previously showed six different outcomes that may happen around this bankruptcy.
One recent development from California Governor Gavin Newsom indicated that the state gave bankruptcy attorneys and financial specialists 60 days to come up with a plan that would keep electricity going while also granting justice to those who were impacted by wildfires.
Citigroup previously had a mere Neutral rating and $11 price target on PG&E. The firm now suggests that the California state legislature may limit potential liabilities for local utilities to keep consistent electric running for its residents. The Citigroup analyst is Praful Mehta, who said, “With path to legislation limiting future wildfire liabilities getting clearer, current price offers a great entry opportunity with upcoming catalyst.”
PG&E shares were last seen trading up almost 13% at $17.45 on Tuesday morning. Its wide 52-week range of $5.07 to $49.42 should more than spell out how troublesome this company has been for long-time shareholders.
While PG&E may end up getting saved here, the company’s history of dividends may not be back on the table any time soon. Traditional utility company investors who historically have sought safety and dividend income alike may still find this too risky and too volatile to pursue.