UPDATE 1-Japan PM says wants TEPCO to remain private company

Fri Apr 1, 2011 10:41am BST

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TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Friday that Tokyo Electric Power Co should remain in private hands, even though the operator of the quake-stricken nuclear power plant would need financial assistance from the government to deal with the aftermath of the disaster.

"We can certainly assume that TEPCO will be obligated to compensate after this," Kan told a news conference.

"TEPCO has been operating as a private company ... We would need to support them, but what I would basically like is for TEPCO to work hard as a private company," he said.

Tokyo Electric could face compensation claims topping $130 billion if Japan's worst nuclear crisis drags on, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has estimated, fuelling expectations Japan's government will step in to support Japan's largest utility.

Investor concern about the future of Tokyo Electric has been mounting after its president, Masataka Shimizu, was admitted to hospital and the company said on Wednesday that 2 trillion yen ($24 billion) in emergency loans from Japan's major banks would not cover its mounting costs.[ID:nL3E7EV039]

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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