* 6-mth recurring profit 141.7 bln yen vs 166 bln loss
* Apr-Sept net profit 616.2 bln yen vs yr-ago 299.5 bln yen
* Half-yr sales up 12 pct to 3.22 trln yen
By Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, Oct 31 Tokyo Electric Power Co
reported its first half-year profit since the Fukushima nuclear
disaster in 2011, but faces an uncertain future as the
government threatens to split the utility, which has struggled
with cleaning up the site.
Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, faces huge compensation claims and
has set aside just a fraction of the funds needed to
decommission the crippled Fukushima Daiichi station, following
reactor meltdowns in March 2011 that forced 160,000 people to
flee their homes.
Japan's atomic regulator all but told Tepco this week to
forget about restarting another of its nuclear plants, which
would help it cut costs as part of a restructuring plan - now
being revised - and focus on the mounting problems at the
Tepco said it made a recurring profit - before taxes and
one-offs - of 141.7 billion yen ($1.44 billion) in
April-September after cutting costs and selling assets. Net
profit was 616.2 billion yen, versus a year-earlier loss of
299.5 billion yen, after receiving 666.2 billion yen from the
government to pay out in disaster compensation, and a 74.2
billion yen gain from selling assets.
Revenue rose nearly 12 percent from last year to 3.22
Tepco, which has only once reported an annual net profit
since 2007, when an earthquake damaged another of its nuclear
stations, gave no full-year profit forecasts.
STRIPPED OF RESPONSIBILITY
Tepco has been widely criticized for repeated missteps, poor
disclosure and a lack of planning in its efforts to clear up the
site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The company should be stripped of the responsibility for
shutting down Fukushima, according to a draft proposal this week
from a panel of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
A person familiar with the panel's deliberations said it
favours an option of creating a separate organization within
Tepco to handle the clean-up. The policy recommendations will be
presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as soon as next week.
Japan has provided Tepco with a 5 trillion yen credit line
for compensating evacuees and damaged businesses, but Tepco has
already said it may need twice that.
"The government seems to be pretty concerned about our
situation. Our view that Tepco cannot shoulder all the costs for
decontamination and decommissioning remains unchanged," Tepco's
president Naomi Hirose told reporters on Thursday. "I hope they
consider that in their discussions."
The Japan Center for Economic Research, an independent
think-tank, reckons total decommissioning costs at Fukushima may
be at least $100 billion. Tepco has said it will set aside about
$20 billion for the clean-up.
To help cut its fuel costs, Tepco wants to restart reactors
at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station, the world's
biggest, but it has met stiff opposition from the local
All of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors have been shut down for
safety checks, with no firm restart schedule - forcing utilities
to increase imports of fossil fuels that have helped push Japan
into a trade deficit.
Some though, including Kansai Electric Power Co,
are returning to profitability after raising electricity prices
and pruning costs.
Price rises, however, mean the utilities are losing
customers to an increasing number of independent power companies
that are taking advantage of moves by the government to free up
Japan's tightly regulated power market.
($1 = 98.1450 Japanese yen)
(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)