Hawaiian Electric shares slide more on Maui wildfires

(Reuters) -Shares of Hawaiian Electric Industries extended recent losses on Thursday, briefly hitting their lowest since 1985, as the utility faced questions about the role its equipment might have played in deadly wildfires in Maui.

The company’s stock has lost more than half its value since the Aug. 8 wildfires that destroyed the coastal Maui town of Lahaina and killed at least 110 people, while hundreds of people remain unaccounted for.

Hawaiian Electric’s shares closed down 15% at $12.03 on Thursday and were down 63% so far this week.

While the cause of the wildfires is still under investigation, class-action lawsuits this week alleged the company was culpable for the fires as well as a downgrade from S&P Global Ratings to junk status.

The lawsuits claim the utility, which is the largest supplier of electricity to Hawaii, was responsible for the fires because it failed to shut off power lines despite warnings that high winds might blow those lines down and spark fast-spreading wildfires.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the company is speaking with restructuring advisory firms to address its recent financial and legal challenges.

The company declined to comment on the lawsuits or the report of discussions with advisory firms.

BofA Global Research said material wildfire liability risk remains for the company. The brokerage also cut Hawaiian Electric’s price target, joining other brokerages like Guggenheim, Wells Fargo and Morningstar.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Sourasis Bose and Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel, Pooja Desai and Cynthia Osterman)