NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings does not expect penalties that could result from the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC's) order instituting investigation (OII) into Pacific Gas & Electric Company's (PG&E) distribution business record keeping practices to impact its ratings or those of its corporate parent, PG&E Corporation (PCG).
Fitch revised PG&E and PCG's Rating Outlooks to Positive from Stable on Feb. 22, 2016. Both are currently rated 'BBB+'.
The Outlook revision reflects Fitch's belief that the worst of the adverse financial impact from the San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire is over. A final decision in PG&E's gas transmission and storage rate case consistent with Fitch's expectations combined with improving credit metrics could result in favorable resolution of the Positive Rating Outlook within 12 - 24 months.
The CPUC's safety enforcement division (SED) and City of Carmel-by-the-Sea (Carmel) filed briefs in the commission's distribution business OII, Feb. 26, 2016. The SED recommends $112 million of penalties and Carmel $652 million. The SED and Carmel recommendations are not binding on the presiding officer or the CPUC. Fitch believes that management will fund any penalties arising in this or other proceedings, such as the pending federal criminal indictment and CPUC investigation of ex parte communications, with equity. The timing of a final decision in the record keeping OII is uncertain. Separately, the trial in the pending federal, criminal indictment of PG&E is scheduled to begin later this month. The scope of the trial has been reduced to 13 counts from 28 and the avoided loss alternative penalty (which could have resulted in a penalty of $1.13 billion) rejected by the court. The maximum penalty under the alternative gross gains penalty alleged by the government is expected to approximate $562 million. The court has yet to rule on government allegations regarding gross gains.
Fitch expects the penalty in the CPUC's investigation into gas transmission and storage (GT&S) related ex parte communication violations by the utility to be finalized in Phase 1 of PG&E's GT&S rate case. A final CPUC decision is expected by Fitch in Phase 1 of the GT&S proceeding in the second quarter 2016. The penalty as ordered in the CPUC's GT&S ex parte communications OII will be up to five months of the annual revenue requirement increase authorized in the GT&S rate case. The commission, in a separate proceeding, is also investigating non-GT&S ex parte communications violations disclosed by PG&E.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.