Duke Energy shares plunged more than twenty two percent yesterday, their biggest decline in more than two decades, after the company placed an unidentified manager on leave amid government probes of sham energy trades.
Shares of Duke, the second largest US utility owner, fell by $3.69, or fifteen percent, to $21.06 in midday trading after earlier reaching $19.21. The decline was the biggest since at least 1980. The stock fell by eleven percent Friday after Duke disclosed a grand jury and federal regulators subpoenaed its trading records.
The trading manager was placed on leave while the company collects information to comply with the subpoenas, said spokesman Terry Francisco. Authorities previously sought records from rival traders such as Dynegy Inc. and CMS Energy Corp. as part of widening probes of the industry since the collapse of Enron Corp.
The Charlotte based Duke's aggressive expansion into non regulated energy trading “leaves them susceptible to Enronitis,” said Skip Aylesworth, who helps manage $160 million at FBR American Gas Index Fund Inc., including Duke shares. “Utility stocks have gotten hammered in the last week. This is murder for us. We're usually a safe haven for investors."