Foreign firms launch Japan evacuation plans

By Nicola Leske

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Foreign firms set up evacuation plans in Tokyo and parts of northern Japan on Tuesday in a bid to distance staff from a quake-crippled nuclear plant while keeping their businesses running.

The planned exodus was already under way for several companies and involved both expats and Japanese workers. Others were still monitoring events. Some reported employees were opting to stay put despite concerns about their safety.

German technology companies SAP <SAPG.DE> and Infineon <IFXGn.DE> were among those moving staff to safety in the south of the country, away from the effects of Friday's earthquake and tsunami which damaged a nuclear plant north of Tokyo and which officials estimate to have cost at least 10,000 lives.

Cisco Systems Inc <CSCO.O> has temporary closed its offices in Shinjuku, Tokyo and Sendai, but said its employees are able to work remotely, noting "limited impact" to its business.

International Business Machines Corp <IBM.N> said its operations were not disrupted and had no reports of serious injury to its employees in Japan.

Boeing Co <BA.N>, which has more than 200 hundred employees in Japan, said it temporarily deferred business travel to the area but that it has no plans to evacuate its staff.

Officials in Tokyo said radiation in the capital was 10 times normal by evening on Tuesday but posed no threat to human health in the sprawling city of 13 million.

Software group SAP said it was evacuating its offices in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya and had offered its 1,100 employees and their family members transport to the south, where SAP has rented a hotel for staff to work online.

Chip maker Infineon said it was looking to move its staff of around 100 from Tokyo to the south, but most seemed reluctant to move. "We've offered to move staff to the south but only a small amount ... have decided to go," said a spokesman.

European banks UBS <UBSN.VX>, Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> BNP <BNPP.PA> and Societe Generale <SOGN.PA> were holding off any evacuation plan for now.

Swedish truckmaker Volvo <VOLVb.ST> was also holding back even though its Tokyo plants employing 4,000 are closed and some of its foreign staff have left the country of their own accord.

Continental <CONG.DE>, the German tyre and autoparts maker, said it was preparing to evacuate around 100 non-Japanese employees and their families by Wednesday, and that Japanese employees would be brought from "insecure regions" to Hiroshima where lodgings for as many as 400 had been organized.

Peugeot <PEUP.PA>, the French partner of Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor <7201.T>, said around 230 employees in Japan had been given the opportunity to leave with their families. Rival Daimler <DAIGn.DE> said the evacuation of the families of 60 expat workers was being arranged.

(Additional reporting by European bureaus; Editing by David Holmes)