Fear of fire losses has belted stocks of Pacific Gas & Electric, vulnerable to penalties due to the Northern California fires, and Edison International, which could be hurt financially by the Southern California fires. Stock of San Diego–based Sempra, parent of San Diego Gas & Electric, has been riding along fine, since San Diego has been lucky enough to avoid fires.
What shocked Wall Street was Pacific Gas & Electric’s decision December 21 to suspend its dividend. The stock plummeted 13 percent that day to $44. Since then, it has inched back to $44.83, its 2017 close.
“Just as PG&E emerged from the long, dark shadow cast over it from the September 2010 San Bruno explosion and subsequent gas pipeline issues, it now faces another round of financial uncertainty related to Northern California wildfires,” says Travis Miller of Morningstar. He thinks the dividend may not be restored until late this year, and, “worst case, PG&E might not pay a significant dividend for years.”
However, he points out, as Wall Street has been saying for years, “California has progressive state regulation and attractive earned returns.” That’s another way of saying the California Public Utilities Commission does everything it can to lift earnings of PG&E, Edison International, and San Diego’s Sempra Energy, but sometimes natural catastrophes interfere with that objective.
Stock of Edison also took a big drop with the fires and with the shock of PG&E cutting its dividend. Edison stock closed November of 2017 at $81.27 and closed December 2017 at $63.24. Analysts generally seem to think Edison stock is now underpriced — the hit was too severe, they believe. The market reacted quickly and emotionally to the fires, but the companies have not yet been officially blamed for the disasters.
Meanwhile, Sempra cruises right along in a congenial atmosphere. It closed 2016 at $100.64 and closed 2017 at $106.92.
Today (January 2), PG&E's stock was valued at $44.39 at the end of the first business day of the year; Edison closed at $63.25. Sempra, meanwhile, had a valuation of $105.35.