The bankrupt utility needs $57.6 billion to pull itself out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Investors would probably hook them up, but exasperated state regulators may put the kibosh on it.
Despite the constant drumbeat of public takeover plans, mayors trying to buy up their electrical grids, and rejections of their bankruptcy at the highest level of state government, bankrupt and widely reviled utility PG&E would prefer to business-as-usual their way out their current Chapter 11 predicament. We saw more evidence of this yesterday, when the Sacramento Bee reported the company still wants to pay $453 million in bonuses while still tens of billions in the red, a story we’ve heard from them before. And now we have a pretty good sense of just how in the red they are, with a report today from the Chronicle that PG&E will need $57.6 billion to exit bankruptcy under the terms of their own plan (which state regulators might still reject).
That number is higher than the previous $52 billion estimate, but what’s another $5 billion when you’re PG&E? This also begs the question of who would be foolish enough to invest in PG&E given the atrocious public relations streak the utility is on; but many investors would, say analysts who pay attention to what investors do.
“Most companies that go into bankruptcy don’t borrow this much money on the way out,” UC Hastings law professor Jared Ellias told the Chronicle. “You just have a lot of money going into this company at once. And the fact that [PG&E] is able to do it is also something that’s unique and speaks to how enthusiastic Wall Street is about this company.”
Much of that money, obviously, would go to the $13.5 billion wildfire settlement for their neglected equipment’s role in the fires. But the Chron estimates the company would have to raise $28.5 million in new debt, which would generally come from big investors.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would have to approve the deal, and they’ve been none too friendly toward PG&E in recent months. PG&E Corp. CFO Jason Wells tried making the utility’s case to the CPUC last month, promising them this “will be the largest capital raise in the utility industry and one of the largest in corporate history.”
This would not be the largest bankruptcy case in U.S. corporate history, though, not even close. We thought to check the largest U.S. corporate bankruptcies ever, and certainly Lehman Brothers’ 2008 $691 billion bankruptcy was far larger. But one interesting side note from that list of biggest bankruptcies ever is who comes in at No. 11. That would be PG&E, again, from their $36.5 billion 2001 bankruptcy.
Image: Image: By LPS.1 via Wikimedia Commons