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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2003

SEC asks FirstEnergy to provide more data

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission wants more information from FirstEnergy Corp. about this week's restatement of the utility's 2002 annual financial report. No details were given about what type of data is being sought.

Because of that request and the skittishness it caused early yesterday, the utility repriced a stock sale it plans to conduct to reduce its debt. The offering price is now $30 a share for 28 million shares, down from the price of $30.75 set Thursday by underwriters.

“If they didn't have bad luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all,” said James Halloran, an energy analyst with National City Wealth Management in Cleveland. He estimated the lower stock price will deprive the company of $24 million. It makes sense, however, to use the lower price “to get it sold properly, so it won't haunt them,” he added.

The analyst said he was not overly concerned with the SEC request, saying accounting problems do occur.

“Its stock price was up 71 cents yesterday, and that's as good a message as you can find from people who put their money where their mouth is,” he said. FirstEnergy's stock closed at $31.81 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Akron parent of Toledo Edison disclosed in a government filing yesterday that it had received “an informal data request” from the SEC, adding it “intends to fully comply with the request and does not anticipate any adverse consequences.”

The company Thursday filed three documents with the SEC, which were revised financial reports from last year and the first two quarters of this year, because of “typographical and minor computational errors” that amounted to tens of millions of dollars. One number was off by $200 million. The amendments were the third set of figures for 2002 and the second set for the first quarter this year.

“It's not entirely unusual, and [the SEC] just wants some clarification in some areas,” said Kristen Baird, a FirstEnergy spokesman. She declined to give any specifics of the request.

A SEC spokesman refused to comment.



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