Japan exodus goes on

THE corporate exodus from Japan’s capital Tokyo continued yesterday, with real estate agent Savills among major firms closing their offices there.

In a sign of growing nervousness at the threat of a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power station, the UK joined others in offering charter flights out of Tokyo’s Narita airport for British citizens unable to secure commercial flights out of Japan.

Savills said it had shifted its 80-man operation to the south of Japan and all but one of its expatriate staff had left.

Law firm Clifford Chance confirmed that it would keep its Tokyo office closed until Tuesday with staff working remotely as far as power outages allowed. Allen & Overy’s office has also been closed all week.

France Telecom, nuclear power operator Areva and carmaker Volvo are among a tide of international firms moving expatriate employees away from Japan’s north. Local staff are also being allowed to remain at home: software provider SAP has told all 1,000 of its staff to work from home with the option to move to bases such as Osaka with their families.

Swedish retailers Ikea and Hennes & Mauritz also said they were helping staff move south, to Kansai and Osaka respectively.

Airlines have been moving their overnight staff swaps out of Tokyo. British Airways said yesterday that it would change crew in Hong Kong rather than Tokyo.

But many banks insisted that they were continuing to operate business as usual, with Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley and UBS all confirming their staff were at work. While executives emphasised that the safety of staff was their priority, many employees voiced unease at the policy and moved their families abroad.