Aquila taps Parris Communications, but stays quiet amidst turmoil

KANSAS CITY, MO: Energy company Aquila, in the midst of efforts to raise cash and cut debt, has hired local firm Parris Communications to handle broad-based communications issues.

KANSAS CITY, MO: Energy company Aquila, in the midst of efforts to raise cash and cut debt, has hired local firm Parris Communications to handle broad-based communications issues.

A Kansas City business newspaper reported last week that Aquila's chairman and president have decided not to grant media interviews for the next month while they address their company's business concerns.

Roshann Parris, president of the agency, could not be reached for comment.

But an associate said the no-interview stance was not true. "Our strategy is certainly not a head-in-the-sand mentality," she said.

Mary Amundsen, who oversees media relations for Aquila, is scheduled to take maternity leave shortly, and was also unavailable for comment.

Aquila, formerly called UtiliCorp United, has seen its debt downgraded because of the Enron debacle. The $11.9 billion-in-assets company was an energy trader, but plans to revert to being a traditional provider.

Earlier this month, Standard & Poor's downgraded its debt to one step above junk-bond status. Moody's had already cut it to junk status, forcing Aquila to raise $192 million to cover certain provisions tied to its bond-rating status. It recently sold a stock in a New Zealand electric company for $302.6 million.

Main Street AC, an investment firm buying shares of energy companies following the Enron affair, has been buying Aquila shares. Aquila took no position on Main Street's tender offers for its shares.

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