energy industry

Germany’s Uniper seeks bailout as Moscow gas standoff chokes finances


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Germany’s Uniper seeks bailout as Moscow gas standoff chokes finances

UNIPER. The Uniper logo is seen in front of the utility firm's headquarters in Duesseldorf, Germany, July 8, 2022.

Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

As Germany's biggest gas importer, Uniper has been hit hardest by a surge in prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Moscow's subsequent squeeze on gas supplies

Utility group Uniper asked the German government for a bailout on Friday, July 8, and warned losses could reach 10 billion euros ($10.15 billion) this year, as Moscow’s economic war with Europe claims its biggest corporate casualty yet.

Uniper, which has been struggling to cover delivery obligations as falling Russian supplies sent gas prices rallying, said it was seeking additional funding through an increase in a credit facility with state-owned KfW bank.

“If you look at the price disparities and the volumes that are missing, we could be piling up 10 billion euros of losses this year,” chief executive Klaus-Dieter Maubach told a press conference at the company’s Duesseldorf headquarters.

He also said consumers should be aware that “very, very high price waves” were still on their way once sky-high wholesale prices were passed on.

But gas deliveries were not yet curtailed, he added, and there was no prospect of an imminent insolvency.

SPD politician Andreas Bovenschulte told the upper house of parliament on Friday that he had heard talk of a possible 9-billion-euro injection of funds into Uniper on the table, confirming media reports about the size of the sum.

As Germany’s biggest gas importer, Uniper has been hit hardest by a surge in prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s subsequent squeeze on gas supplies.

The company said its Finnish majority shareholder Fortum had made a proposal to the German government that includes ringfencing the system-critical German businesses under government ownership.

Fortum said in a statement that several alternatives were being discussed for the company, also Germany’s largest gas storage operator, but none had been decided on.

“Fortum has already supported Uniper substantially with an 8-billion-euro credit facility comprising both a shareholder loan and parent company guarantees, which is almost fully drawn by Uniper,” the Finnish company said.

Uniper’s share price was up 1.5% at 1415 GMT.

Germany on Thursday, July 7, and Friday adopted legislative changes providing the government with options to help companies through the current energy crisis.

They also provide the legal basis for the government to allow some or all of the high additional procurement costs caused by the gas shortages to be passed on to customers, while allowing it to support struggling energy companies.

Germany has accused Russia of strangling the flow of energy to Europe through spurious pretexts in revenge for sanctions over the Ukraine war, and is closely watching whether flows will resume after scheduled maintenance on July 11 to 21.

Russia has denied doing so, and said it was a reliable energy supplier that honors its contracts. Uniper has said it was receiving around 40% of the normal amount of gas from Russia.

Maubach said he was “disappointed” with the disruptions, which were hurting decades-old business relationships, and was looking at legal possibilities to respond.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the government was committed to stabilizing the gas market. –

$1 = 0.9852 euros

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