Exclusive: Mitsui & Co to sell all stakes in coal-fired power plants by 2030 - CEO

By Yuka Obayashi and Noriyuki Hirata
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co Ltd <8031.T> plans to sell its remaining stake in coal-fired power plants by the end of the decade as it switches to coal gas to meet its net zero emissions target by 2050, said its managing director Reuters.
"We still have stakes in coal-fired power plants in Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Morocco, but our goal is to get it to zero by 2030," said Tatsuo Yasunaga, Mitsui's CEO, in an interview on Friday.
The comment - Mitsui's first to sell coal-fired power plants - comes as companies around the world move away from coal to reduce harmful carbon emissions and slow climate change.
Mitsui, which makes around two-thirds of its profits from energy and metals, is also shifting away from oil.
"With the COVID-19 crisis, we postponed investment in some upstream oil deals, but our liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are on the right track," he said.
Through holdings, Mitsui’s energy assets include 78,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd) and 181,000 bpd of gas, measured in oil equivalents.
The crude oil quota will decline in about four years by 2030 due to the planned start of LNG projects in Mozambique and Arctic Russia, Yasunaga said.
"Renewable energy cannot replace all other energy sources in one fell swoop. Gas goes well with volatile renewables because gas-powered electricity generation can be easily turned on and off," he said, adding that Mitsui is also interested in clean energy, such as electricity as offshore wind farms and hydrogen projects.
Outside of energy and resources, Mitsui is banking on healthcare, particularly through the Malaysian hospital operator IHH Healthcare Bhd <IHHH.KL>, in which it holds 32.9%.
"The pandemic has helped spread virtual diagnostics and other services across Singapore and Malaysia, and supported our plans to use data to deliver new services, including nutrition and disease prevention," he said.
Mitsui is one of five trading houses in which Berkshire Hathaway Inc <BRKa.N> bought 5% of the shares from Warren Buffett in August, with the possibility of increasing its stake to 9.9%.
Mitsui was in email contact with the US investor and has not received any specific inquiries, Yasunaga said.
"We are determined to implement our growth plans as promised and to look for new opportunities that will lead to mutual benefit," he said, citing the example of the alliance with the US dialysis company DaVita Inc <DVA.N>, its largest shareholder Berkshire is.
DaVita's growth in Asia will be mutually beneficial and Mitsui is keen to pursue similar collaborations, he said.
"We need to show a result that could lead Berkshire to increase its stake to 9.9%," said Yasunaga.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Noriyuki Hirata; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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