Edison International aims to power through troubles
Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, has had its hands full with the bankruptcy of a subsidiary and the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Now, it is overhauling its operations.
The Rosemead company, which oversees the utility that provides power through much of Southern California, began as Los Angeles Edison Electric Co. in 1894 when Visalia street-light provider Holt & Knupps merged with Electric Light Works.
The company has long since branched out beyond its primary utility, establishing power producer Edison Mission Energy, investment arm Edison Capital and coal subsidiary Midwest Generation.
Expansion in the 1990s to Britain, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey and other nations prompted the name change to Edison International. Today, the company employs about 16,600 people and has a market capitalization of nearly $16.1 billion.
Edison touted its core earnings, which exclude one-time charges and tax benefits, as well as its revenue in its second-quarter earnings report last week.
In both cases, the company beat Wall Street analysts’ expectations, reporting core earnings of 79 cents a share, above the expected 66 cents, and operating revenue of $3.1 billion, well ahead of the expected $2.7 billion.
The increases reflect “strong operating results from higher authorized investment in our electric grid infrastructure, good cost management and favorable tax benefits,” Chief Executive Ted Craver said.
Still, the company posted a net loss of $70 million, before paying $24 million in preferred stock dividends.
Edison’s primary focus has been damage control since trouble began at San Onofre’s massive nuclear plant in January 2012.
Tubes in the plant’s newly replaced steam generators began leaking a small amount of radioactive water, forcing the plant to shut down. The company found extensive premature damage and, in June, closed the plant permanently.
Last month, Edison served notice, a prelude to a lawsuit, on contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Inc. that it held the company accountable for design and manufacturing defects.
To spur growth, the company plans incremental rate increases on Southern California Edison customers through 2017. In November, the state Public Utilities Commission approved a 5.04% increase.
Edison has taken measures to cut costs in the wake of San Onofre. Executives pointed out efforts to reduce staff to 2006 levels and decrease overhead spending.
“One of the points that gets lost in the shuffle is we’ve actually grown the utility side of our business, Southern California Edison, really dramatically in the last several years,” said Craver, referring specifically to the utility’s assets.
Southern California Edison assets rose 2% to $3.02 billion at the end of the second quarter from $2.96 billion a year earlier.
On top of the San Onofre debacle, Edison may be facing allegations of fraud from Edison Mission Energy creditors, who said the parent company exhibited “abusive control and domination” over the subsidiary.
The unregulated power-generating unit filed for bankruptcy in December. Executives told analysts in a conference call Thursday that no lawsuit charges had been filed yet against Edison International.
Despite the parent company’s troubles, Craver predicted smoother sailing ahead.
“San Onofre is obviously not in the condition we wanted,” Craver said, but deciding not to reopen the plant granted Edison’s investors some degree of reassurance.
“We now have a path. We have to get through cost recovery. We need to get through the remaining steps,” he said. “These are things that reduce uncertainty in the minds of investors and the minds of customers.”
On Wall Street, 14 analysts recommended that investors buy Edison stock, seven recommended holding it and one said to sell the stock. Estimates are that shares will be selling at $52.36 in 12 months.
Paul Fremont, an analyst at global investment firm Jefferies & Co., said the stock would underperform. He said second-quarter results were consistent with the company’s unchanged forecast of 2013 core earnings of $3.25 to $3.45 a share.
“If the quarter result was so strong,” he said, “they would have changed guidance for the year, which they didn’t do.”
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