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TEPCO meets wrath of shareholders

29 june 2011, 11:04
Angry TEPCO shareholders and protesters Tuesday called on the firm to abandon nuclear power, and slammed management for their handling of the nation's worst atomic accident after the March quake-tsunami, AFP reports.

About 100 police officers were deployed around the hotel where Tokyo Electric Power Co. held its first shareholder meeting since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami battered its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

TEPCO shares have lost around 85 percent of their value since a raging wall of water crippled cooling systems at the facility, with three reactors suffering meltdowns and spewing radiation into the environment.

The government has put forward a public-private scheme to ensure TEPCO can meet massive compensation, but worries remain for the firm's future under the sheer weight of trillions of yen in costs as it battles to stabilise the plant.

A record 9,130 shareholders attended Tuesday's fiery gathering, with many demanding the company scrap nuclear energy and fuming at the company's history of repeated safety cover-ups.

"I am so furious with the company. They never changed after repeated problems," said shareholder Furukawa, who declined to give her first name.

"I would like to tell TEPCO that we no longer need nuclear power. I never expected a triple A-rated company would end up like this. I think the accident is a man-made disaster," said Torao Ogawa, 60-year-old shareholder.

Around 85,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, farms and businesses in a 20-kilometre (12-mile) zone around the radiation-spewing plant, with evacuation pockets also further afield.

A group of protesters from Fukushima also gathered in front of the hotel. Haruna Takida, 33, left Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture, before dawn to take part in the rally.

"The accident deprived children of their right to live a healthy life, young people of hope to work in Fukushima, and elderly people of what they had built in their lives," she said.

TEPCO officials were jeered during the meeting in which they again apologised for the accident, as 402 shareholders called on TEPCO to abandon nuclear power.

"The company should immediately withdraw from nuclear power generation that is covered up with lies, leaves a negative legacy to our children into the future, and imposes a burden on the local community," the proposal read.

However, analysts say the resolution is unlikely to be adopted as the firm has 746,927 shareholders with voting rights.

One shareholder stood up and demanded TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata be dismissed from the meeting.

"We left our funds to you for management. Fukushima, Japan and the world can't go back to what we used to be before the accident. I can't believe in you," a weeping female shareholder told the meeting to rounds of applause.

"You should have resigned right after March 11."

Many households across the country purchased TEPCO shares as long-term assets expecting stable and relatively high dividend yields, given its position as a power supplier for Tokyo and the Kanto region -- an area that contributes more than a third of the nation's gross domestic product.

But TEPCO is unlikely to pay dividends or make profits for years as it undertakes mammoth restructuring, battles to contain radiation, and pays out trillions of yen in compensation to those affected by the accident.

In May it reported a $15 billion annual net loss for the year ended March, the biggest ever for a non-financial Japanese firm, on costs related to world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Four of six reactors at the Fukushima plant have been crippled, and the company is struggling with efforts to bring the crisis under full control by a self-imposed deadline of January 2012.

Ratings agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's have downgraded TEPCO to junk status, citing the volatile situation at the plant and uncertainty surrounding the level of state support for the power company.

By Yuka Ito

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