Reliant Hit Further By Enron

Reliant Resources became the latest victim of the fallout from the Enron crisis last Friday, as the Houston-based energy trader withdrew a half billion dollar bond sale and said that it might have inflated its power trading volumes. Its shares went into a tailspin. Reliant's announcement was the latest setback this week for US energy traders, already reeling from news of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe into Dynegy and regulatory inquiries into alleged manipulation of US power markets by Enron. Fresh evidence this week that Enron used trading tactics to manipulate California power markets and bolster profits, and that Dynegy conducted fake trades to inflate trading volumes, has hammered a sector already under pressure from investors, analysts and credit ratings agencies. Shares in Reliant tumbled by seventeen percent, or $2.81, to stand at $12.00 by midday in New York on Friday. Other energy traders were also sharply lower, with Dynegy shares down a further 7 per cent at $10.81 after hefty losses this week and Williams Companies 58 cents lower at $16.92. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Ferc) earlier this week widened its inquiry into US energy trading activities, raising concerns that other companies had used techniques like Enron, the former number one trader, to inflate trading volumes. Reliant on Friday said it had made energy transactions similar to those disclosed by Dynegy on Wednesday, and which were also being investigated by Ferc. "In response to news reports about another power trader's transactions involving simultaneous purchases and sales with the same counterparty at the same price, Reliant Resources undertook a review for similar transactions," the company said. "The company believes that it had similar transactions and is working to quantify the amount and assess the impact of those transactions." Reliant said it would not comment further until its inquiry was completed. The statement followed an emergency conference call by Dynegy this week, in an effort to allay concerns over two big commercial trades it completed to test its online portal's ability to handle high volumes. The deals involved selling and instantly repurchasing electricity, and were included in Dynegy's financial statements. The trades appeared to increase its trading volumes at a time when it was trying to usurp Enron as the leading US energy trader. However, explanations by Dynegy management failed to appease investors and prompted Standard & Poor's, the credit ratings agency, to place its ratings under review for possible downgrade. Reliant's bond sale had been organised to help fund its $4.8bn purchase of Orion Power, announced in February.

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