Foreign firms starting to relocate employees

Published by rudy Date posted on March 16, 2011

ALCATEL-LUCENT, ICAP and Infosys Technologies are among the companies moving employees in Japan elsewhere after Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned the risk of leaks from an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant was rising.

Radiation near an earthquake-hit plant had reached levels harmful to human health, the Japanese government said after two explosions and a fire at a crippled facility Tuesday.

Four of the six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, 250 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, have now overheated and sparked explosions since Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami killed hundreds of people and knocked out cooling systems.

Tens of thousands have already been evacuated from a zone within a radius of 20 kilometers of the 40-year-old plant and Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged the people living within 10 kilometers of that zone to stay indoors.

Infosys, India’s second-largest software exporter, is helping move employees to a safe location, according to an e- mailed statement Tuesday.

Alcatel-Lucent, France’s biggest maker of phone equipment, said it might allow its employees in Tokyo to relocate to other areas in Japan.

Citigroup had received requests from several senior employees at its trading operations in Tokyo who were asking to relocate out of Japan, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

ICAP, the world’s largest broker of transactions between banks, was allowing expatriates in Tokyo with families to relocate temporarily to Hong Kong and Singapore, another person said.

“I sent my family to the Philippines this morning,” said Tokyo-based Curtis Freeze, founder of Prospect Asset Management, which manages $280 million and has been investing in Japan for more than two decades.

“At least, there is peace of mind this way.”

Freeze, whose wife is a Filipina, and who owns a house in the country, said he will stay in Tokyo to work.

The death toll from a 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 has risen to 2,734 as of Tuesday, according to the National Police Agency in Tokyo.

Companies are moving to ensure the safety of workers after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken nuclear power plant 220 kilometers north of the capital was rocked by explosions.

The International Bankers Association sought to quell speculation that financial-services workers are leaving Japan, saying none of the companies it represented had announced plans to evacuate staff.

Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest computer-services company, is ready to bring Indian employees in Japan back home and move Japanese staff and their families to safe locations, according to a statement from the company.

New York-based Citigroup wasn’t planning to move staff out of the country, spokeswoman Naomi Watanabe said in an interview.

“We have contingency plans, and if the situation changes this may involve moving some staff to other locations as needed,” Watanabe said. –Takahiko Hyuga and Dave McCombs, Bloomberg

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