PG&E facing ‘significant’ new losses from California wildfires, utility tells investors

Four months after exiting bankruptcy, PG&E Corp. is facing mounting financial headaches from wildfires again.

California's largest utility warned shareholders Thursday that it could face a "significant liability" in connection with the Zogg Fire, one of a series of wildfires that blew through Northern California this year.

The warning, part of a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, came three weeks after PG&E disclosed that it's being investigated by Cal Fire for possibly sparking the Zogg Fire. The fire killed four people in Shasta County last month. Cal Fire investigators took possession of some of PG&E's electrical equipment near where the fire started.

PG&E said it's still too early to estimate its financial liabilities. The fire destroyed 204 homes and other buildings and consumed 56,338 acres before being contained.

Meanwhile, the company said its potential losses from last fall's Kincade Fire are growing. In the SEC filing, it said it now expects liabilities to reach $625 million, up from the $600 million previously estimated. Cal Fire investigators concluded that the fire was caused by faulty PG&E transmission equipment. The fire prompted the evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents of Sonoma County and destroyed 374 buildings.

The latest disclosures came the same day, ironically, that PG&E reported a return to profitability following its stint in bankruptcy. The company said it earned $83 million in profits in the third quarter of 2020. For the first nine months of 2020, PG&E lost $1.5 billion.

PG&E was driven into bankruptcy by liabilities from the 2017 wine country fires and the 2018 Camp Fire.

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