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15th Apr 2024

Germany nationalises gas giant Uniper amid energy crisis

  • The deal remains subject to the withdrawal of Uniper's lawsuit against the Netherlands under the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (Photo: Roel Wijnants)
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Germany confirmed on Wednesday (21 September) the nationalisation of Uniper, the country's largest gas-importer — in a bid to secure operations and prevent supply shortages, in the wake of Russia's supply cuts.

Under a capital injection and share-purchase deal, the German state will now own 98.5 percent of Uniper. But the purchase still needs to be approved by the European Commission.

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As part of the deal, which builds on a €15bn stabilisation package agreed upon in July, the federal government will inject an additional fresh €8bn of capital into the Dusseldorf-based utility.

In addition, Berlin will acquire the Uniper shares currently held by Finnish utility Fortum at €1.70 per share. Uniper shares were down around 30 percent at €2.91.

Germany's economy minister, Robert Habeck, said the nationalisation was necessary given the crucial role of Uniper in the energy supply in the country .

"The state will … do everything possible to always keep the companies stable on the market," Habeck told reporters.

Uniper supplies more than 40 percent of all natural gas used in Germany, and before the war was one of the biggest customers of Russian-state-controlled energy giant Gazprom. But soaring prices and Russian supply cuts have resulted in record losses for the energy group.

The company already reported more than €12bn in losses for the first half of the year — although losses are likely to exceed €18bn this year, according to Bloomberg.

Russia indefinitely suspended gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline earlier this month, raising concerns over supply security and potential energy-rationing in Europe.

"Today's agreement…secures the energy supply for companies, municipal utilities, and consumers," said Uniper CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach in a statement.

For his part, Fortum CEO Markus Rauramo said that selling Uniper to the federal government is "the right decision" for both Uniper as well as Fortum.

"As a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the role of gas in Europe has irrevocably changed, as have the prospects for a business model that relies heavily on gas," he added.

The deal, however, remains subject to the withdrawal of Uniper's lawsuit against the Netherlands under the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT).

In a separate move last Friday, Germany also took control of three Russian-owned refineries — including a major facility in the northeast of the country which supplies around 90% of the capital's fuel.

Germany expects coal supply problems this winter

According to a document drawn up by the German economy ministry low water levels have reduced domestic shipping to the point that Germany's temporary shift to coal may be disrupted this winter.

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