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Analyst View: Japan Approves Nuclear Crisis Compensation Scheme

Fukushima Decontamination, Nuclear Radiation

http://www.emfnews.org

 

Japan's government approved a plan to help Tokyo Electric Power Co compensate those affected by the crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and save Asia's largest utility from financial ruin.

 

KEY POINTS
-- A compensation fund will be set up to which other utilities will contribute.
-- The government will provide as much assistance as needed to prevent utilities from falling into negative net worth.
-- The government will not set an initial cap on the liabilities of Tokyo Electric (Tepco).
-- The government will issue special-purpose bonds to fund the scheme.
-- The government will monitor the performance of electric power utilities.

 

COMMENTARY

KIYOSHI NODA, CHIEF FUND MANAGER, MU INVESTMENTS
"The government is infringing on private firms' profits. It has violated the profits of utilities and now it's trying to lower the burden for the taxpayer by encroaching on banks' profits.
"Due to this the market is facing a new political risk -- the government does not respect private profits and investors are reacting badly to the announcement. The impact will be especially big if the banks are asked to share the burden, as the sums we're talking about are high."

 

TAKUJI OKUBO, CHIEF ECONOMIST, SOCIETE GENERALE SECURITIES
"The scheme in general is definitely negative for Tepco equity holders and I think from the way (the government is) using the word stakeholder, this is a source of concern for Tepco bondholders and banks that lend to Tepco.
He said banks may have to agree to lend to Tepco at lower rates than usual, and Tepco bond holders may take a haircut, "which could mean that not only equity holders ... and other power generators have to chip in for the fall-out from the disaster."

 

YUUKI SAKURAI, CEO & PRESIDENT, FUKOKU CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
"From the perspective of shareholders of utilities' stocks, more unclear factors have emerged after the announcement. It's difficult to gauge what is the fair value of their shares also because we don't know that the government won't intervene in their nuclear power plants, as it did with the Hamaoka plant, putting more pressure on their revenues.
"It is probably due to this uncertainty about the future that utilities' stocks are being sold off today.

"From the market's perspective, even though saving Tepco from bankruptcy is a positive thing, more uncertain factors have emerged."

 

TAKESHI MINAMI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, NORINCHUKIN RESEARCH INSTITUTE, TOKYO
"As Tepco alone cannot handle compensation costs, it may be difficult to avoid raising taxes and utility fees.
"Although it is the government that promoted the nuclear power policy, the public has benefited from it. So not only Tepco and the government but also broadly concerned parties will have to bear a burden, including other utility firms and the public.
"It's hard to judge the compensation scheme as there is no such thing as a perfect solution."

 

YASUHIDE YAJIMA, SENIOR ECONOMIST, NLI RESEARCH INSTITUTE, TOKYO
"This scheme will help alleviate concerns of financial market turmoil because holders of Tokyo Electric shares and bonds are protected. I think we can avoid market turmoil because that's essentially the whole point of this scheme.
"But there is so much uncertainty over how this scheme will actually work because we don't know exactly how much the total costs for compensation will be.
"Ruling and opposition parties generally agree that they must help those affected by the nuclear crisis, so I think bills for this scheme will be passed by parliament without much trouble. Some details may be amended but the overall scheme likely won't change much."

 

BACKGROUND
-- Government officials, bankers and Tepco executives have been wrangling for weeks over who should foot the bill for the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
-- Two months after the disaster, Tepco is still struggling to get reactors at the plant under control. The discovery that water is leaking from the center of reactor No.1 could delay the plan to resolve the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
-- The compensation scheme is designed to prevent Tepco from immediately going into default or bankruptcy while meeting compensation claims.
-- The government hopes to minimize any adverse impact on stock and bond markets by protecting Tepco's shareholders and bond owners and to ensure stable power supply by the regional monopoly by providing funding.
-- The scheme had been expected to be approved by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet on Thursday but was delayed for one day due to disagreement among ruling party members over details of the plan.

 

(Reporting by Tokyo bureau; Editing by Michael Watson)
 

 

 

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