Hitachi Ltd. said Wednesday it will examine options "cautiously" over its planned 3 trillion yen ($27 billion) project to build two nuclear reactors in Britain.
"Hitachi is a private company so we want to address the plan in terms of economic rationality...We don't want to trouble our shareholders," Hitachi President Toshiaki Higashihara told a general shareholders' meeting in Tokyo.
Mitsuaki Nishiyama, Hitachi's chief financial officer, said one option was for the company to lower its stake in its Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd. unit to lessen the impact of the wholly owned unit's business on the Hitachi group. Horizon oversees the project to build two advanced boiling water reactors on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales.
As the company continues talks with the British government, Hitachi hopes to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the project within 2019.
"Before starting construction of the nuclear reactors, we will solicit investments (from public and private entities) so that Hitachi's stake in Horizon Nuclear Power will be lowered to below 50 percent," Nishiyama said.
For some Hitachi shareholders, the nuclear power plant project remains a concern. "The nuclear business is my only concern," one shareholder said at the meeting, adding that he was concerned Hitachi may follow Toshiba Corp. in exiting the overseas nuclear power business.
Toshiba, Hitachi's long-term domestic rival, suffered huge losses from its now-bankrupt U.S. nuclear power subsidiary.
Hitachi has said it wants to remove Horizon from the Hitachi group, as a potential rise in costs for the nuclear power plant stemming from higher material prices or a delay in building could dent the group's overall earnings. Hitachi aims to start the plant's operation by 2025 if it joins the project.
In a meeting in London last month, Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi made a personal request to British Prime Minister Theresa May for support for the company's construction operations.
Earlier this month, the British government and Hitachi agreed to start full-fledged negotiations over the project, coming to terms on a cost-sharing mix for the plan.
Under the agreement, the British side would shoulder about two-thirds of the estimated 3 trillion yen cost through direct government investment and loan guarantees.
Before the agreement, Hitachi had considered withdrawing from the project as it found costs to construct the plant rising to higher-than-expected levels due to safety requirements.