Japan's TEPCO soars further on Abe poll victory

Shares in Fukushima operator TEPCO soared for a second straight day Tuesday after Shinzo Abe's election win fuelled speculation that plans to ditch atomic power in disaster-scarred Japan will be shelved.

The utility giant's stock ended up 17.32 percent at 237 yen after spiking nearly 28 percent in morning trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The rally came after Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) -- whose Fukushima Daiichi plant was at the centre of last year's tsunami-sparked atomic crisis -- rocketed 32.89 percent to 202 yen on Monday.

However, the firm's stock is still a fraction of its pre-disaster price above 2,100 yen.

"TEPCO has been too cheap to not buy, from a risk-trade valuation perspective," an equity strategist at a foreign brokerage told Dow Jones Newswires.

But the strategist added there were still many uncertainties including clean-up costs for the crippled Fukushima plant and future legal liabilities.

Also Monday, nuclear energy firm Chubu Electric Power jumped 9.59 percent and Kansai Electric was up 17.64 percent by the close.

Both finished lower on Tuesday, however, with Chubu off 3.45 percent at 1,147 yen and Kansai 4.45 percent lower at 879 yen.

The utilities' rise was attributed to rumours that the landslide win for Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in weekend elections signalled that any short-term plan to ditch nuclear power was off the table.

Anti-nuclear sentiment has run high in Japan since last year's crisis, with opinion polls showing a majority of voters wanted to phase out atomic power, which once supplied about one-third of the resource-poor country's energy.

All but two of Japan's 50 reactors remain switched off after the worst atomic accident in a generation.

However, the anti-nuclear mood failed to translate into wider support for the ousted Democratic Party of Japan, which had pledged to work toward a zero-nuclear country, or a group of small anti-atomic parties who had little impact at the polling booth.

Premier-in-waiting Abe, the LDP's hawkish head, has derided the zero-nuclear goal as unrealistic and "irresponsible" -- and hinted at keeping atomic power.

The LDP, whose electoral victory was cheered by investors and Japan's business community, has said it would decide on reactor restarts in three years and the nation's "best energy mix" within a decade.

Japan's private sector had bemoaned the nation's energy bills as already too high with less nuclear meaning more challenges for Japan Inc. which was wrestling with a strong yen and weakening overseas demand.

To plug the energy gap, Japan turned to pricey fossil fuel alternatives that sent energy costs soaring.

Abe's opponents, however, say the LDP's cosy attitude to regulation was a big factor in the lax supervision that worsened the disaster at Fukushima, which saw a quake-sparked tsunami slam into the plant, swamping its cooling systems and sending reactors into meltdown.

--

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