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PG&E Corp. shares plunge amid reports of possible breakup, bankruptcy talks

PG&E Corp. shares plummeted amid reports that the beleaguered company may sell its gas utility business or file for bankruptcy protection as insurance claims and other potential liabilities from fatal California wildfires could stress the utility company's finances.

Shares of the San Francisco-based holding company of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. opened at $18.50 on Jan. 7, down 24% from the Jan. 4 stock market close.

PG&E Corp. announced Jan. 4 that it is looking for new directors for both the holding company and its utility subsidiary to enhance safety expertise in addition to "assessing PG&E's operations, finances, management structure and governance."

On the same day, National Public Radio reported that PG&E is considering putting its gas utility business up for sale to help cover the costs associated with extensive damage from the Camp Fire, which claimed 86 lives and destroyed 13,972 residences, 528 commercial buildings and 4,293 other buildings, and Reuters reported that the company is exploring filing for bankruptcy for part or all of its business. Both reports cited anonymous sources.

CNBC reported Jan. 7 that sources close to the matter estimated that PG&E faces at least $30 billion in liabilities for 2017 and 2018 wildfires, not including penalties, fines or punitive damages.