Tepco pensions may be tapped for redress

Panel keeps all of utility's assets on redress table

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Tokyo Electric Power Co. may need to cut pensions to acquire ready cash to compensate people affected by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis if a government panel examining the utility’s assets deems this necessary, Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata said Friday.

“(The corporate pension) is a really difficult issue to deal with, as it is protected by special legislation. But we will consider various things, like lowering its interest rate when we receive suggestions from the panel,” Katsumata told reporters after attending a meeting of the panel to explain Tepco’s current financial situation and outlook.

To slash pensions, Tepco needs to get approval from two-thirds of its pensioners and employees who are paying pension premiums, as was the case with Japan Airlines.

Lawyer Kazuhiko Shimokobe, who heads the panel, said while the issue of corporate pensions was not raised at Friday’s meeting, “it will be included in the discussion.”

The panel was formed a week ago to monitor Tepco’s operations and evaluate its financial assets to prepare for massive compensation over the nuclear plant crisis.

Another issue in the spotlight is whether the panel will recommend that Tepco sell its key assets for generating and distributing power. Asked about the possibility, Katsumata remained vague, only saying, “it is a matter of profit and loss arithmetic.”

The panel is expected to discuss the issue of separating the generating and distribution business, but the topic will not be the main focus as there is not enough time, Shimokobe quoted panel members as saying.

But since the government is expected to rethink the overall nature of the nation’s power business, the panel should kick off discussions that serve as the basis of that pursuit, he said.

Tepco has claimed it has about ¥14.7 trillion in assets, including ¥7.6 trillion in facilities for generating and distributing electricy, including power plants.

A task force of the panel will select companies to evaluate Tepco’s assets by mid-July, start the evaluation process and compile a report in September.