At a raucous annual stockholders meeting Thursday, Pacific Enterprises President and Chief Executive Willis B. Wood Jr. gave shareholders more bad news--that the company will take a special charge he later estimated to be at least $325 million.
Without that charge--equal to at least half the $650-million book value of Thrifty Corp., Pacific Enterprises' ailing retail subsidiary--the parent company's first-quarter earnings would have been about 10 cents a share, Wood said. The earnings will be released on May 15, later than expected.
"I wish I could say that we'll be profitable tomorrow, or the next day or even the day after that. I can't," Wood told shareholders.
Pacific Enterprises, also parent of Southern California Gas Co., announced in February that for the first time in 75 years it was suspending dividends in what had been considered a safe and dependable "widows and orphans" utility stock.
Angry stockholders--including a woman who said she was a widow dependent on Pacific Enterprises' dividends--repeatedly interrupted the proceedings to vent feelings that mismanagement and corporate extravagance were at the root of Pacific Enterprises' financial troubles. The board and current management alike were blamed.
At a press conference after the meeting, Wood gave details of ongoing negotiations with "several" potential buyers of the Thrifty Corp. chain of drugstores.
At least one, Wood said, is based in Southern California.