November 5, 2018 / 2:32 PM / 9 days ago

California utility PG&E to spend $6 billion on wildfire safety

(Reuters) - U.S. utility PG&E Corp, blamed by California officials for some of the state’s deadliest wildfires last year, said on Monday it expects to spend about $6 billion on wildfire safety through 2023.

The company, which posted a rise in third-quarter profit, faces billions of dollars in potential payouts from lawsuits after California said PG&E’s power lines were responsible for sparking the firestorm last autumn.

The firestorm killed 46 people, scorched 245,000 acres and destroyed 8,900 homes.

California's biggest utility said on Monday it recorded $18 million in charges related to the wildfires in the reported quarter. The company took a charge of $2.5 billion in the second quarter. (bit.ly/2zverEd)

In September, California’s legislature passed a bill that could help the utility avoid potentially crippling liabilities for wildfires that ravaged northern parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

“While we believe this bill represents a constructive initial step, more important work remains,” said Chief Executive Officer Geisha Williams on a post-earnings call.

Reuters reported in August that PG&E had hired a law firm to explore debt restructuring options.

The company’s shares were up 2.5 percent at $48.62 in afternoon trading.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta

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