Nikkei Slides with Tokyo Electric as Boss Faces the Boot


In Asia Monday Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.6% to 9,479 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index lost 0.4% to close at 23,068, while China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2% to end the day at 2,984.

Tokyo Electric Power's top boss is following his company's share price into the doldrums. The energy company has lost $29 billion in value since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that led to the nuclear disaster at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, according to Bloomberg. Tokyo Electric's 66-year-old president, Masataka Shimizu (pictured), is now facing calls to step down amid charges that he reacted too slowly -- attempting to save the plant for future use rather than taking the most effective steps to prevent radiation leakage, such as immediately flooding it with sea water. "They were greedy and wanted to try to re-use the reactors," Tokyo's governor told Bloomberg. "Had they used sea water from the start we wouldn't be in this situation."

Shimizu's reputation has been further tarnished by reports that he was taken ill in the midst of the crisis. According to the Straits Times,overwork led to illness and he was forced to take a week off from the government's task force created to address the disaster. This show of weakness can only diminish his reputation among a population seeking strength and guidance.

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Today Tokyo Electric Power shares plunged a further 20.5%, that's a loss of 73% since the problems began and its lowest price since 1977. Shares in Hitachi, which also builds reactors, fell 1%; Japan Steel Works, a maker of nuclear components, slipped 0.9%; and Toshiba edged down 0.5%.

Among companies that lost value after suffering factory damage were Tokyo Electron, which slumped 3.1%. The maker of electronics components was forced to close a factory in Iwate, which was directly affected by the March 11 earthquake. Japan Tobacco, which shut five damaged factories after the quake, slid 2.2%.

Meanwhile, Sumitomo Metal Industries soared 5.6% after restarting operations, and gains in car makers countered some of the hefty losses in other sectors. Nissan surged 3.5%, Honda climbed 2.1% and Toyota added 0.6%. Mazda, however fell 0.6%.

Hong Kong markets closed lower as investors focused on corporate earnings. China Petroleum & Chemical tumbled 2% after missing earnings estimates, as did China Construction Bank, which dived 2.3%. Meanwhile China Pacific Insurance advanced 1.8% after beating estimates.

Shares in Hong Kong real estate firms retreated in the jittery atmosphere with China Resources Land plunging 2.7%, Henderson Land losing 1% and New World Development down 0.6%.

In China, higher profits drove up share prices. Yanzhou Coal Mining rallied 5.3% after more than doubling net income, while China Minsheng Banking zipped up 2.6% on increased profits that took the company's total net income to a better-than-expected $2.7 billion.

China Shenhua Energy, another coal producer rose 1.4%, China Coal Energy advanced 0.8% and Inner Mongolia Yitai Coal gained 0.6%.