More tangling of wind web in Japan -- Toyota buys Tomen

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One of the world's biggest wind developers, Japanese Tomen, is being taken over by Toyota Tsusho, a trading company of car manufacturer Toyota. Tomen approached Toyota after reporting a 46% plunge in first half profits and difficulties in meeting interest payments on its huge debt. As part of the rescue deal, Toyota is investing ´10 billion in Tomen, adding to its existing 11.5% stake in the company. Toyota is also taking over the general management of the wind development division. Toyota's investment is in addition to a financial aid package worth ´170 billion provided by Tomen's main bank, UFJ Holdings and other creditors.

This is the second time Tomen has turned to Toyota and its banks for help. In 2000, financial institutions wrote off ´220 billion of Tomen's debt and Toyota bought its first shares in Tomen. Still struggling, Tomen then sold half its wind developing subsidiary to Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power Co last year.

Toyota Tsusho, owned 23% by Toyota Motor, also owns 51% of Vestech Japan Corp, the sole agent for Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas in Japan. It also has interests in J Wind, a wind project management company it owns jointly with Electric Power Development Company (EPDC) -- a partly state owned company which will be fully privatised later this year under recently announced government plans. J Wind is overseeing the development of two Vestas 850 kW turbines being installed on Tokyo Bay's waterfront. Due to come online in March the turbines will produce the first wind generated electricity to be bought by Tokyo Electric Power Company. The Tokyo city authority is also researching wind conditions at two other locations on its water front in the Odaiba area.

More joint ventures

The Tokyo Bay project is EPDC's first joint project with Toyota Tsusho, but the company's Naoki Ohmyo confirms more projects will follow. Toyota Tsusho plans to build three wind power generation facilities in the Chubu, Tohoku and Shikoku regions in its next financial year, which starts April 1. Toyota Tsusho and EPDC are expected to work together on two of the three tenders. Each tender will be for 20-30 MW.

EPDC's status as a partly state-owned company prevents it tying an exclusive knot with Toyota, stresses Ohmyo. EPDC will work with different developers on different wind projects on a case by case basis, he says. For its part, Toyota is attracted by EPDC's links with government, which it feels reduces its investment risk and can increase its market share in Japan, reports Nikkei, a Japanese business newspaper. The two companies may jointly tap overseas wind power markets in the near future, it adds.

EPDC now owns two wind farms in Japan with a combined capacity of 55.35 MW. It is also developing a 21 MW wind project, due to come online at the end of the year, in Kuzumaki town in the northern Iwate prefecture.

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