(Reuters) -Hawaiian Electric Industries is seeking expert advice amid growing research into its role in the Maui wildfires, but the largest energy provider in the US island nation said Friday it had no intention of restructuring the company.
Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service earlier today downgraded its credit rating to junk status, the second such downgrade this week after S&P Global Ratings, as investors worried about potential wildfire-related financial and legal challenges.
Hawaiian stocks rose about 19% in volatile premarket trading after losing more than half their value since the August 8 wildfires that devastated the coastal Maui town of Lahaina and killed at least 110 people.
The company did not clearly state for what purpose it sought expert advice. “As any company would in this situation, and as we do in the normal course of business, we are seeking advice from various experts,” it said in a document.
The Honolulu-based company faced class action lawsuits over alleged fault for the fires, claiming the utility failed to shut down power lines despite warnings that high winds could knock over those lines and start wildfires .
Hawaiian said power shutting was not part of the wind management protocol.
“Preemptive short-term power cuts must be coordinated with first responders, and in Lahaina, electricity powers some pumps that provide the water needed for firefighting,” the company said. The company said that unlike in California, there was no precedent in Hawaii of applying a “reverse conviction” to a private party such as an investor-owned utility.
A “reverse conviction” exposes California utilities to liability for wildfires, regardless of their negligence, as long as their equipment is involved.
As of Thursday, about 1,900 customers in West Maui were without electricity, Hawaiian said. It didn’t include the approximately 2,600 homes and businesses destroyed, representing less than 1% of its customers.
(Reporting by Arshreet Singh and Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)