PG&E Earnings Overshadowed by Bankruptcy, Fires

When PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) reported fiscal third-quarter results before markets opened Thursday, the embattled utility company posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.11 on revenues of $4.43 billion. In the same quarter a year ago, it reported EPS of $1.13 on revenues of $4.38 billion. The consensus estimates for the quarter had called for a loss of $1.01 per share and $4.75 billion in revenue.

Of course none of that matters much. What matters is a pretax net loss of $2.35 billion that included $2.55 billion for wildfire-related claims in the quarter and year-to-date claims totaling $6.45 billion. The net loss per share was $3.06, compared to GAAP EPS of $1.09 in the year-ago quarter.

The company’s financial situation is only going to get worse. According to PG&E’s announcement, the company expects an after-tax loss of $6.2 billion to $6.3 billion related the 2017 wildfires, the 2018 Camp fire, enhanced and accelerated electric asset inspections, Chapter 11-related matters, 2019 gas transmission and storage capital disallowance, and the Public Safety Power Shutoff customer bill credit. The company did not provide further guidance.

Bill Johnson, PG&E’s CEO and president, said:

We continue to make progress in our efforts to move expeditiously through the Chapter 11 process, and remain focused on a fair and prompt resolution of wildfire victims’ claims, while continuing to support California’s clean energy future. We also remain dedicated to the safe operation of our gas and electric systems, and in particular, to reducing the risk of wildfire in our communities.

The biggest risk for PG&E stockholders is a warning from the judge in the company’s bankruptcy case that new fires caused by PG&E equipment could result in ending the bankruptcy protection case, wiping out shareholders and auctioning off the utility’s assets.

The second-biggest risk to shareholders is that bondholders could accomplish much the same result if the bankruptcy judge sides with investment firms led by Elliott Management and Pacific Investment Management (Pimco) that have sided with wildfire victims and presented a plan that would wipe out shareholders.

For what it’s worth, analysts are estimating fourth-quarter adjusted EPS of $0.73 and revenues of $4.27 billion. For the full year, estimates call for $3.87 in EPS and revenues of $17.57 billion.

Thursday morning, PG&E stock traded down about 4.8%, at $6.55 in a 52-week range of $3.55 to $49.24. The 12-month consensus price target is $14.50, proving once again that there are cock-eyed optimists aplenty.