Second Japan nuclear operator to get government bailout: Nikkei

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Hokkaido Electric Power Co, facing a third year of financial losses, will get a capital infusion from a state-owned lender, the Nikkei reported on Tuesday, the second nuclear operator to be bailed out since the Fukushima crisis.

The government-owned Development Bank of Japan will buy about 50 billion yen (S$610 million) of preferred shares in the regional utility, equal to about 20 percent of shareholder equity, the Nikkei reported, without citing sources.

Hokkaido Electric, which is the regional monopoly that supplies power to the country's northernmost island of the same name, is looking into the report, a spokesman said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) was bailed out by the government in 2012, after an earthquake and tsunami hit its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo the previous year, causing the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

All of Japan's 48 nuclear reactors are in shutdown and undergoing stringent safety checks with no schedule for restarts, forcing operators to import more costly fossil fuels.

The prolonged shutdown of Hokkaido Electric's sole Tomari nuclear plant and the cost of burning more fossil fuels has put it on course for a third straight financial year of net losses.

Other nuclear operators are also in dire financial straits, the Nikkei reported in a separate article.

Hokkaido Electric is expected to negotiate the proposal with other shareholders and announce the plan by the end of April, with an official decision to be made at its annual shareholders meeting in June, the paper added.

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