TEPCO facing huge claims
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) could face compensation claims topping US$130 billion if Japan’s worst nuclear crisis drags on, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch estimated, fueling expectations the Japanese government would step in to save Asia’s largest utility. Investor concern about TEPCO’s future has been mounting after its president, Masataka Shimizu, was admitted to hospital and the company said on Wednesday that ￥2 trillion (US$24 billion) in emergency loans from Japan’s major banks would not cover its mounting costs. Liabilities for compensation claims alone could be up to ￥11 trillion — nearly four times TEPCO’s equity — if the nuclear crisis drags on for two years, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a report.
EU inflation accelerates
Inflation across the eurozone accelerated to 2.6 percent year-on-year last month, the EU said yesterday, as fears mount that rising prices could put a brake on economic growth. Up from 2.4 percent in February, according to EU data agency Eurostat, the rate is now significantly above the European Central Bank’s hopes for medium-term inflation at below 2 percent across the 17-nation currency area. Last month marked the fourth successive month above that target and makes it a racing certainty that the bank would raise interest rates, probably as early as their meeting this month. Last month’s rate for the eurozone was the highest since October 2008, when it hit 3.2 percent.
Rusal net profit triples
The world’s top aluminum producer, Russia’s Rusal, said yesterday that net profit more than tripled last year to US$2.87 billion because of growing demand for the metal, particularly in China. Profits were up from US$821 milllion in 2009, the group said in a statement yesterday, while revenue increased 34.5 percent on 2009 to US$10.98 billion. The company saw “robust demand growth” from China, a company statement said. The demand from the US, Europe and Japan, which was depressed during the economic crisis, grew 14 percent on 2009.
BHP investing in Chile
Mining giant BHP Billiton yesterday approved a US$554 million investment in its massive Escondida copper mine in Chile, a week after saying it would pour billions into its Australian projects. The Anglo-Australian giant said it was the first of several development options that would underline Escondida’s status as the world’s premier copper operation. The project will relocate the crushing and conveying facilities currently located inside Escondida’s main pit to improve access to higher grade ore, which would support higher production from 2013, BHP said.
Chrysler might delay IPO
Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested on Wednesday that Chrysler might delay its initial public offering (IPO) depending on the cash needs of the US automaker and the auto workers union trust fund. Marchionne has previously hinted that an IPO could happen by the end of the year. He said a decision on whether and when to take Chrysler public would depend on how much the automaker itself and the United Auto Workers health care trust need liquidity. Fiat SpA increased its stake in the once-bankrupt Chrysler LCC to 25 percent this year. Marchionne confirmed that it expects to raise it to 35 percent by the end of the year.