Sun, Jul 13, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Enron waffles over utility disposition

AP , PORTLAND, OREGON

The future of one of Enron's key assets -- Oregon's largest utility -- was still uncertain Friday even after the fallen energy giant formally divulged its plans to emerge from bankruptcy.

Enron said it was leaning toward distributing stock in Portland General Electric to its creditors, who are owed an estimated US$67 billion, but the Houston-based company said it hasn't ruled out selling the utility.

"We are still considering two scenarios, both of which wind up in the same place for PGE," said Mark Palmer, Enron spokesman. "Either way, PGE will be independent of Enron, out from underneath this very distressing situation."

The city of Portland is interested in buying the utility and running it as a publicly owned entity, although its bid was rejected by the company. City officials could also approach creditors about a potential sale.

"The city is considering all of its options," said Tommy Brooks, a spokesman for Portland Mayor Vera Katz. One of those options includes exercising its power of eminent domain by moving to condemn and take over PGE's assets, said Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens' Utility Board, a Portland-based watchdog.

Under Enron's proposed reorganization plan, which must be approved by a New York bankruptcy court, creditors would divvy up billions of dollars in proceeds from asset sales and auctions and receive equity in two new companies: CrossCountry Energy Corp, a domestic pipeline company, and Prisma Energy International Inc, an international power and pipeline company.

Depending on how the bidding process plays out, PGE could be a third company in which creditors would receive equity. The company would have an independent board of directors, but would retain PGE's current management.

"We feel that those are both good options because at the end of the day, we're separated from Enron and we would continue to be an independent company headquartered in Oregon," said Kregg Arntson, PGE spokesman.

John Ambler, spokesman for Enron, said the decision about PGE had been held up by the bidding process. PGE has been on the market 10 months without attracting any adequate bids, he said.

Portland officials and watchdog groups consider distributing Enron stock to creditors as the worst case scenario for the city's electricity users, who could see higher rates as the result of trickle down expenses from lawsuits and further instability.

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