Commercial banks that have extended loans to Tokyo Electric Power Co. have agreed to offer an additional 300 billion yen ($2.91 billion) to the struggling utility, while considering ending any future lending to it.
With TEPCO’s debt from 77 private financial institutions swelling to an unprecedented level by month's end, the creditor banks are weighing capping their loans to the utility at 4.5 trillion yen, sources at the banks and the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund said.
The additional 300 billion yen will raise TEPCO’s total debt to 4.5 trillion yen, more than twice the amount before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered the accident at the utility's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The largest creditor bank for TEPCO, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., has offered about 990 billion yen, three times higher than before the nuclear disaster began to unfurl.
Under normal circumstances, Japan’s large-scale banks typically lend around 200 billion yen to their respective major corporate customers.
Subsequently, the government and the commercial banks have concluded that it will be difficult for private financial institutions to extend additional new loans to TEPCO.
While the banks may not provide more new loans from next year, the utility will be allowed to refinance its existing debt, according to the sources.
The financial institutions are also weighing whether to make the existing collateralized loans unsecured, if the utility is allowed to refinance them. TEPCO has received a total of more than 1 trillion yen of secured lending to date.
The utility's shaky finances are being shored up by taxpayer money, as the Abe administration has apparently decided TEPCO alone cannot shoulder the entire costs related to the nuclear disaster.
The government will cover part of the costs of decontamination work around the Fukushima plant and compensation for victims of the nuclear disaster. It plans to raise the ceiling of government loans to TEPCO from the current 5 trillion yen to 9 trillion to 10 trillion yen.
Those financial measures will be included in the utility’s rehabilitation plan, scheduled to be compiled by year-end.
While it is estimated that TEPCO will have to pay up to 2.5 trillion yen to complete cleanup work near the stricken plant, the Finance Ministry has decided to include more than 350 billion yen in the fiscal 2014 draft budget to help the utility accelerate decontamination efforts.
If the proposal is approved, the government will spend nearly 2 trillion yen for cleanup work.
Currently, TEPCO plans to erect new thermal power plants as well as expand its gas-related business. Funds for such new businesses will be procured by establishing new joint ventures with other companies and borrowing money via the ventures.
The new sources of power are needed to make up for the shutdown of the utility's nuclear reactors following the accident. TEPCO has applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for safety screenings to allow the restarts of its No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.
(This article was written by Hidefumi Nogami and Mari Fujisaki.)
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