Tepco top redress exec named next president

Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday it will promote managing director Naomi Hirose as the next president of the ailing utility, which is expected to be effectively nationalized as it struggles to cope with the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis that started last year.

The 59-year-old executive is in charge of compensation issues related to the catastrophe and has apparently received recognition for firmly handling his job. The promotion was decided at an extraordinary board meeting.

Tepco has been looking for candidates for the company’s top management position as current Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 72, and President Toshio Nishizawa, 61, are expected to step down at the utility’s annual shareholders’ meeting in June as a gesture of taking responsibility for the triple-meltdown crisis.

Kazuhiko Shimokobe, a 64-year-old lawyer and a key official of a state-backed entity providing financial assistance to Tepco, is already set to become the next chairman.

At a press conference Tuesday, Hirose said that the three pillars Tepco must pursue are continuing the compensation payments to residents affected by the meltdown crisis, stabilizing and ultimately decommissioning the crippled reactors, and assuring a stable supply of electricity.

“We also need to make sure that we are listening to the voices of our customers and reflecting them in our services,” Hirose said. “There are many things that we need to change (as a company).”

Hirose served in the corporate planning department, which is seen as an elite track, as well as the marketing department before becoming a managing director in June 2010. He earned a Master of Business Administration at Yale University in the United States.

Shimokobe and Hirose will be tasked with carrying out various reforms to help the utility overcome its extremely tough business environment.

In addition to trillions of yen in compensation payments, the once blue-chip company is facing increasing fuel costs for thermal power generation to make up for halted nuclear power generation amid the Fukushima accident.

It is also looking at massive costs for the decades-long process of scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s four damaged reactors, three of which suffered meltdowns following the March 2011 megaquake and tsunami.