Enron files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization

One-time financial and energy giant Enron Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday and sued former suitor Dynegy Inc. for $10 billion for alleged breach of contract for terminating a last-minute merger. As expected, Enron's lawsuit also asks the court to declare Dynegy is not entitled to exercise its option to acquire an Enron subsidiary that indirectly owns the Northern Natural Gas Pipeline.

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Dec. 2 -- One-time financial and energy giant Enron Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday and sued former suitor Dynegy Inc. for $10 billion for alleged breach of contract for terminating a last-minute merger.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks to reorganize Enron, which has billions of dollars in debt. Some observers had feared the company could be forced to liquidate under Chapter 7.

As expected, Enron's lawsuit also asks the court to declare Dynegy is not entitled to exercise its option to acquire an Enron subsidiary that indirectly owns the Northern Natural Gas Pipeline.

Dynegy Chairman Chuck Watson said the company intended to exercise its option obtained under the $9 billion merger agreement and last week warned Enron not to put the pipeline company into bankruptcy. Dynegy backed out of the deal after credit ratings agency downgraded Enron to below an investment grade ranking.

To preserve cash, Enron said it would implement "substantial" work force reductions, but did not specify numbers in a Sunday statement. But it said the layoffs will primarily affect the company's Houston operations, where it is headquartered and employs about 7,500 people.

The bankruptcy protection filing affects 14 affiliated entities, including Enron Corp., Enron North America Corp., Enron Energy Services, Enron Transportation Services, Enron Broadband Services, and Enron Metals & Trade.

The filing doesn't affect Northern Natural Gas Pipeline, Transwestern Pipeline, Florida Gas Transportation, Portland General Electric Co., EOTT, and various international entities, the company said.

Enron Chairman Ken Lay said the past few weeks' uncertainty has "severely" hurt market confidence in the company, but the steps taken Sunday will help preserve capital, stabilize the business, restore the confidence of counterparties, and improve the company's ability to pay creditors.

Enron said it is continuing discussions to raise money and recapitalize the company under a new ownership structure. It has proposed providing traders and back office services to the new entity, which would conduct counterparty transactions through EnronOnline, Enron's existing trading platform.

The deal would require the court's approval, but Enron Pres. Greg Whalley said the company will make an effort to keep employees key to the future success of the company's wholesale energy trading business.

"We understand that it may take time for counterparties to resume normal trading levels with this entity, but we are confident that this business can be put back on solid footing," he said.

Up until 6 months ago, Enron was the top US gas and power trader with $1.3 billion in profits in 2000 and $100 billion in revenue. But in a stunning reversal of fortune, the company reported a third quarter loss and a $1 billion reduction in shareholder equity that was linked to questionable off-balance sheet deals. Investors fled the stock, which closed below $1/share Friday, after trading near a high of $90/share earlier this year.

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