Hawaiian Electric Industries (HE), a major utility company, is standing its ground against allegations that its power lines were responsible for a deadly wildfire on the island of Maui in Hawaii. As a result, the company’s stock saw a significant boost, with shares climbing by 35% to $13.22 in premarket trading on Monday.
The devastating wildfires earlier this month have taken a toll on Hawaiian Electric’s financial performance, causing a 77% decline in its shares this year. To address the aftermath of the fires, the company had to suspend its dividend and focus on strengthening its cash position.
Maui County recently filed a lawsuit accusing Hawaiian Electric of negligence for failing to power down equipment despite a warning from the National Weather Service. However, Hawaiian Electric’s CEO, Shelee Kimura, expressed surprise and disappointment at the County’s rush to court without completing its own investigation. Kimura believes the complaint is both factually and legally irresponsible.
Hawaiian Electric countered the accusations by stating that power lines that fell during high winds appeared to have caused one fire, but it was ultimately extinguished by the local fire department. Additionally, the utility pointed out that all its power lines in West Maui had been de-energized for over six hours before the second fire erupted, which destroyed the town of Lahaina and tragically resulted in at least 115 deaths.
Despite their initial hopes for an amicable resolution, Hawaiian Electric expressed concern that the County of Maui’s lawsuit would leave them with no choice but to demonstrate their innocence through the legal system. Unfortunately, the legal representatives of the County of Maui were not available for comment at the time of writing.