Skip to Content
Stock Analyst Update

Fires Prompt Fair Value Cuts to California Utilities

We've trimmed our estimates for PG&E and Edison International to reflect possible liabilities.

Mentioned: ,

We are cutting our fair value estimates for California utilities  PG&E (PCG) and  Edison International (EIX) to reflect possible liabilities related to state wildfires. However, we think the market has overreacted to the extent of potential liabilities, and the stocks appear undervalued as of midday Nov. 12. In the last two trading days, PG&E has lost $7.4 billion of market value, or 30%, and Edison has lost $4.7 billion of market value, or 21%, both exceeding our initial estimates of fire liabilities. 

We cut our PG&E fair value estimate by $2 per share to $51 after incorporating $2.5 billion of probability-adjusted pretax liabilities related to the Camp Fire. We continue to include a $5 per share reduction related to potential liabilities from the 2017 wildfires, which burned about double the 113,000 acres the Camp Fire had burned as of midday Nov. 12. The 2017 wildfires resulted in 44 deaths and 8,900 structures destroyed compared with 29 deaths and 6,700 structures destroyed in the Camp Fire as of midday Nov. 12.

PG&E took a $2.5 billion pretax charge earlier this year for a series of 2017 fires that burned 132,100 acres, destroyed 2,200 structures, and killed 12 people. That charge could go higher once Cal Fire releases its report from the October 2017 Tubbs Fire, the largest and most deadly of the 2017 fire season.

We cut our Edison fair value estimate by $1 per share to $66 after incorporating $800 million of probability-adjusted pretax liabilities related to the smaller Woolsey and Hill fires, which had burned 90,000 acres and resulted in two deaths and 200 structures destroyed as of Nov. 12. Edison has no material historical fire liabilities. 

The critical issue for investors is whether Senate Bill 901 will limit the utilities' third-party fire liabilities related to inverse condemnation, or strict liability standard. The law likely will limit the financial impact of the 2017 fires but does not specifically address future fire liabilities.

Morningstar Premium Members gain exclusive access to our full analyst reports, including fair value estimates, bull and bear breakdowns, and risk analyses. Not a Premium Member? Get this and other reports immediately when you try Morningstar Premium free for 14 days.

Travis Miller does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

Transparency is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.

We’d like to share more about how we work and what drives our day-to-day business.

We sell different types of products and services to both investment professionals and individual investors. These products and services are usually sold through license agreements or subscriptions. Our investment management business generates asset-based fees, which are calculated as a percentage of assets under management. We also sell both admissions and sponsorship packages for our investment conferences and advertising on our websites and newsletters.

How we use your information depends on the product and service that you use and your relationship with us. We may use it to:

  • Verify your identity, personalize the content you receive, or create and administer your account.
  • Provide specific products and services to you, such as portfolio management or data aggregation.
  • Develop and improve features of our offerings.
  • Gear advertisements and other marketing efforts towards your interests.

To learn more about how we handle and protect your data, visit our privacy center.

Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success. We provide a platform for our authors to report on investments fairly, accurately, and from the investor’s point of view. We also respect individual opinions––they represent the unvarnished thinking of our people and exacting analysis of our research processes. Our authors can publish views that we may or may not agree with, but they show their work, distinguish facts from opinions, and make sure their analysis is clear and in no way misleading or deceptive.

To further protect the integrity of our editorial content, we keep a strict separation between our sales teams and authors to remove any pressure or influence on our analyses and research.

Read our editorial policy to learn more about our process.