Some Wall Street bond brokers are soliciting interest in a series of rarely traded notes tied to Hawaiian Electric Industries, as market participants assess potential liabilities for the utility following deadly wildfires in Maui, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
(Bloomberg) — Some Wall Street bond brokers are soliciting interest in a series of rarely traded notes tied to Hawaiian Electric Industries, as market participants assess potential liabilities for the utility following deadly wildfires in Maui, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
Jefferies Financial Group sent out quotes this week on Hawaiian Electric Co.’s private placement notes at deeply distressed levels, between 40 cents to 60 cents on the dollar, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. Meanwhile, traders at Seaport Group are gauging interest from some investors, the people said.
The solicitation is among a number of early indications that both investors and the utility have started to take steps to determine potential losses stemming from the wildfires. The notes quoted by Jefferies are rarely traded, privately-placed securities primarily held by insurance companies, the people said. Several banks are also making markets in the company’s municipal bonds.
Jefferies declined to comment and Seaport didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. Hawaiian Electric Industries said that it “intended to be here for the long term, through the rebuilding effort and beyond.”
“Like any company in this situation would do, and as we do in the normal course of business, we are seeking advice from experts — the goal is not to restructure the company but to endure as a financially strong utility that Maui and this state need,” it said in an email.
Certain holders of private placement notes have been in discussions to gauge which assets are insulated from the potential financial fallout and recovery prospects, the people said. A few restructuring law firms have been in touch with holders in case they want to band together and seek advice, they said.
Hawaiian Electric has come under criticism for not turning off power despite weather forecasters’ warnings that dry, gusty winds could create critical fire conditions. Plaintiffs attorneys are focusing on the utility’s equipment as a possible source of ignition, and the state’s attorney general said she was opening an investigation into how authorities responded to the wildfires.
The utility’s muni bonds have plunged since the wildfires. The notes due in 2039 traded at about 63 cents on the dollar on Thursday.
S&P Global Ratings cut Hawaiian Electric Industries to junk earlier this week, and analysts at Barclays said the investment-grade muni bonds could be slashed to high-yield in the near future. Like California’s largest utility PG&E Corp., which filed for bankruptcy in 2019, Hawaiian Electric Co. could decide to seek Chapter 11 protection to deal with its liabilities, the Barclays strategists added, albeit noting there hasn’t been any such indication from the company.
Hawaiian Electric Industries shares extended declines, reaching a recent low of $12 on Thursday, as concerns swell over the company’s potential liabilities following the Maui wildfires.
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