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Enron Near Collapse After Dynegy Pulls Out
Reuters ^ | 28 Nov 01 | C. Bryson Hull

Posted on 11/28/2001 2:14:15 PM PST by RightWhale

Enron Near Collapse After Dynegy Pulls Out

By C. Bryson Hull

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Energy trading behemoth Enron Corp. tottered at the edge of one of the biggest corporate collapses in U.S. history on Wednesday as its rescue by rival Dynegy Inc. blew apart.

Shares of Enron, which was only recently ranked No. 7 on the Fortune 500 list of the biggest U.S. corporations, slumped 85 percent to an all-time closing low of 61 cents. Major credit rating agencies slashed their ratings on Enron's bonds to junk status, triggering expectations a company that was a darling of Wall Street just a year ago will be forced into bankruptcy.

The dizzying plunge in Enron's fortunes shook financial markets worldwide, rocking the London Metal Exchange and weighing on U.S. stocks as it left creditors, such as banking giants J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup Inc., facing substantial losses.

Enron's latest crash marked another low in a stunning free-fall that began with a $638 million quarterly loss six weeks ago. Surprise disclosures, including the admission it overstated earnings by almost $600 million since 1997 and kept huge debts off its books, led investors to rapidly lose faith in a company valued at almost $80 billion a little more than a year ago.

After trading Wednesday, Enron's market value was barely $450 million. A U.S. regulatory probe into its murky off-balance sheet dealings and the unexpected departures of a chief executive in August and a chief financial officer in October helped fuel the fall.

Enron "entrapped the sophisticates," said Robert Stovall, senior strategist at Prudential Securities, referring to what was once an almost fawning admiration for Enron by institutional investors. "I think this is going to become a classic case."

Stovall, with nearly 50 years of Wall Street experience, said he could not recall any previous corporate unraveling that could match Enron's.

"You would have to go to pre-SEC days for that," he said, referring to the creation of the U.S. Securities and Exchange in the aftermath of the stock market crash of 1929.

Enron set a New York Stock Exchange record with 181.86 million shares changing hands, almost 33 percent more than the previous record set by Lucent Technology on Jan. 7, 2000.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it was monitoring Enron, but said it has yet to see "anything extraordinary."


Dynegy accused Enron of breaching representations it made when a takeover agreement was negotiated on Nov. 9, invoking an escape clause that let it pull out of the all-stock deal valued at $9.3 billion at the time. Enron said it would cease payments on all but its core operations.

Already awash in some two dozen shareholder and employee lawsuits alleging misrepresentation, Enron on Wednesday founded a litigation committee that was certain to take aim at Dynegy's pullout.

Enron can expect more lawsuits, especially from big investors like mutual and pension funds, Baylor University investments professor William Reichenstein said.

"The big question now is whether there is anything left to go after. That remains very much in doubt," he said.

The loss of Enron's investment-grade credit rating forces some $3.9 billion in debts to come due immediately, a major problem for a company that has spent most of the $5.5 billion it sought in recent weeks to stay afloat. Enron said in a recent regulatory filing that it was unlikely to "continue as a going concern" were its credit rating to be slashed to junk status.

Dynegy apparently took that warning to heart.

"We knew when to say 'no' and this morning we said 'no,"' Dynegy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chuck Watson said during a brief conference call with investors.

Dynegy said it would exercise an option to buy Enron's Northern Natural Gas Pipeline with the $1.5 billion it and partner ChevronTexaco Corp. put into the deal. Enron said it was reviewing Dynegy's actions, including its "assertion that it is entitled" to buy the pipeline.

Sources close to negotiations late Tuesday on efforts to lower the value of Dynegy's deal by about half said it became increasingly clear that Enron's tricky and often indecipherable accounting was becoming a sticking point,

Dynegy said it stopped trading with Enron Wednesday morning, pegging its exposure at $75 million. Others traders said they would deal with Enron on a cash-only basis, a virtual death sentence for a trading outfit that has $16.86 billion in debt and other obligations -- and less than $2 billion in cash on hand.

Operations were suspended indefinitely at Enron's once highly lucrative online trading system, EnronOnline. The unit accounted for up to 90 percent of Enron's earnings, and was considered the jewel of the trading franchise that Dynegy coveted most.


Enron, which touted itself as an agile risk manager, found its credit and debt had spiraled out of control as a series of partnerships designed to hide debt off of its balance sheet became public in recent weeks.

The partnerships, which included top Enron executives, provided financing in exchange for guarantees that Enron's stock stay above certain levels and its credit remain investment-grade. But they came back onto the balance sheet with a vengeance, as Enron found it would have to meet massive debt obligations as its shares and credit fell.

The stock peaked at $90.56 in August 2000, riding high on the cresting wave of the technology boom after Enron took its trading outfit online and promised to bring its business model into the broadband communications arena.

Andre Meade, a Commerzbank analyst who has been consistently bearish on Enron and the deal, said its core business deteriorated at an increasing pace in recent weeks, and the ratings agencies could not find the liquidity they wanted inside Enron.

"The numbers were not enough to soothe them," said Meade, who downgraded Enron to "sell" from "hold" on Wednesday. "This company should have been downgraded to junk weeks ago. The ratings agencies had given them several weeks, and they just couldn't hold out anymore."

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: michaeldobbs
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Just another version of the story. This event is probably economically significant.
1 posted on 11/28/2001 2:14:15 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: RightWhale
I am still amazed at how fast it fell.

If you had asked me a year ago what was morely likely, jets flying into WTC or Enron filing bankruptcy...I would have chosen the WTC.

Enron Corp. was very good to me in the 90's...sad to see her go.

2 posted on 11/28/2001 2:22:25 PM PST by RCW2001
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To: RightWhale
Several questions.

What forms of energy does (did) Enron specialize in, ie. Oil, Coal, Uranium, Electricity, Hydrogen etc., or is this huge stock company a merely a storefront for trading.

All of this legal accounting gobbeldygook is interesting, but what does it mean?

Is this going to open a new market to foriegn energy companies in America?

Is this going to open a market for a new energy product, such as Hydrogen?

Could this event, or any event like it lead to stronger International Business Regulations?
I know this is a tough question, but Energy is a resource that is not easily Governed by a small greedy nation state.

3 posted on 11/28/2001 2:41:25 PM PST by ramdalesh
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To: RightWhale
I still don't understand what's going on. Enron was a solid company, and none of these articles explains what the devil happened. How could their accountants have failed to notice fraud or mismanagement on such a huge scale?
4 posted on 11/28/2001 2:44:25 PM PST by Cicero
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To: ramdalesh
What is Enron [ENE] anyway?

Business Description:

Provides products and services related to natural gas, electricity and communications to wholesale and retail customers;

markets risk management and finance services worldwide;

develops power plants, pipelines and delivers high bandwidth communications

It appears to be some kind of contractor/broker. Kind of a management company. Works in the less well-lighted areas of business. A paper company.
5 posted on 11/28/2001 2:56:57 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: RightWhale
I think the most important question of all is: What are the current balance sheets of every individual employed at Enron above middle-management? If those guys are walking away from their mismanaged and/or fraudulently-managed company with multi-million-dollar net worths, they need to be individually sued to within an inch of their lives.
6 posted on 11/28/2001 2:57:25 PM PST by Timesink
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To: RightWhale
the loss of 90 billion in paper value means the us shareholders are minus 90 billion in wealth. I think the stimulus program that is stalled in the us senate is less than that. 90 billion is about 300 dollars for every man woman and child in the US. It is larger than the tax rebates that were received last summer. Yes, it probably is economically significant.
7 posted on 11/28/2001 2:59:57 PM PST by staytrue
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To: RightWhale
The absolutely stupid ads Enron was running on TV for the past year is all anyone would have to know that they were heading for disaster.
8 posted on 11/28/2001 3:38:54 PM PST by Voltage
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To: RightWhale
I work at Enron and today was an incredible day. Watching such a huge firm implode before my eyes was quite an experience. I had been there only 2.5 years, and did not have too much invested in the company. People who were there 5years probably lost $500,000 in retirement assets if they did not diversify, and I have heard stories of 15-20yr employees who have humped their whole lives lose around $2 million.

What went wrong? From my perspective, Enron's top most management were involved in a four-year scandelous program of misrepresentation, deciet, dishonesty, and criminal behavior while espousing the "Enron Values" of Integrity, Respect, Communication, and Excellence, and pontificating and diaplaying huge arrogance and smugness to everyone in general. Many corporate mind-numbed robots bought the line and firmly still believed in the leadership of the company till about two weeks ago when it really began to unravel. Today, there are still people that feel it will 'turn itself around'.

With 23,000 employees worldwide and $15+ billion in unpaid bills (with less that $2 billion in cash), countless deals with large counterparties/utilities/producers, our economy is going to take a huge it. No doubt about it.

9 posted on 11/28/2001 4:09:10 PM PST by Jalapeno
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To: RightWhale
Who is to be held accountible?

What type of policy directive could effectively hold individuals responsible for the crimes that are comitted by their companies?

Who "bumped them off"?

10 posted on 11/28/2001 4:28:35 PM PST by ramdalesh
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To: Jalapeno
My husband just started at Enron 2 1/2 months ago. It was the dream job he had been waiting for (previous company 11 years). Two weeks before, 20/20 did a thing on employers that make the work environment so inviting, you can't wait to go (some people couldn't wait to go to get away from their kids which was awful), and Enron in Houston was one of the featured companies. Needless to say it's been a shock, but like you, we luckily don't have our retirement invested in Enron. I told my husband it reminds me of Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street. Remember the line "Greed is good"?
11 posted on 11/28/2001 4:33:10 PM PST by Lanza
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To: Jalapeno
On site reporter describing the action at the parapets. Awesome report.
12 posted on 11/28/2001 4:35:28 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: ramdalesh
Who "bumped them off"?

Live by oil/gas futures, die by oil/gas futures.

13 posted on 11/28/2001 4:38:55 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: Timesink
Timesink, you have hit the nail on the head. Corporate exectutives have been robbing companies blind with their golden parachutes.
14 posted on 11/28/2001 4:48:43 PM PST by Abbalon
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To: RightWhale
It appears to be some kind of contractor/broker

They are the Natural Gas Utility in my town. They bought Entex(the old Gas utility) several years ago.

15 posted on 11/28/2001 4:51:04 PM PST by is_is
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To: RightWhale
BTW, What employees have been told is to show up to work in the morning, and that they will be paid on Friday (a regular payday). Nothing more has been said. Look for Chapter 11 real soon.

Understand, though, Chapter 11 does not save Enron like it does, say a furniture concern or other physical retailer. Enron lives (and has died) on their credit rating. The movement to junk status for their bonds today sent them over the abyss, from which there is no return. No one wants to od multi-million dollar deals with someone who will not pay up.

16 posted on 11/28/2001 4:58:25 PM PST by Jalapeno
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To: RightWhale
My goodness...what are we going to call that ballpark where the Houston Astros play, from now on??
17 posted on 11/28/2001 4:59:16 PM PST by Citizen of the Savage Nation
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To: RightWhale
I also recall reading that they got HEAVY into the fiber optic business and how the fiber optic industry was in a free fall due to over supply and everyone cutting prices...
18 posted on 11/28/2001 4:59:45 PM PST by is_is
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To: Cicero
Enron has always been a somewhat shady, sleazy company. When that one CEO quit suddenly after only a month or two on the job (ostensibly because he wanted to spend more time with his family!), it was apparent that there was more to it than that. He must have seen what was going on and wanted to leave before the "bin laden" hit the fan.
19 posted on 11/28/2001 5:03:15 PM PST by Pining_4_TX
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To: is_is
Enron made deals with both producers and suppliers of commodities. These producers/suppliers are risk adverse and would rather give up the upside of a commodity price to stave off any downside possibilities. Enron would then make other deals with speculators who are willing to take the risk off our hands. For the core commodities, this was done on a global scale. This was a VERY profitable business ($101 billion in revenue last year).

Bread and butter was Gas and Power, also did deals in Paper, pulp, lumber. water, bandwidth (one of the things that killed them), weather(temp and rain). equities, trucking cargo space, metals crude and refined products, currencies, ...the list was endless.

20 posted on 11/28/2001 5:04:49 PM PST by Jalapeno
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