energy industry

TIMELINE: How Russian gas crisis took toll on Germany’s Uniper

Reuters
TIMELINE: How Russian gas crisis took toll on Germany’s Uniper

UNIPER. General view of Uniper's Bierwang gas storage facility near the Bavarian town of Kraiburg am Inn, Germany, June 10, 2022.

Andreas Gebert/Reuters

German utility Uniper describes itself as a 'pawn' in the crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Here's how it ended up in such dire straits.

FRANKFURT, Germany – Germany’s Uniper is the most high profile corporate casualty of Europe’s energy crunch. It alleges that its long-term Russian partner Gazprom has brought it to the brink of insolvency by withholding gas.

Describing itself as a “pawn” in the crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas last month received a 15-billion-euro government bailout so it could afford to buy elsewhere.

Russia has cited turbine problems as its reason for cutting gas supply via the main line into Germany, Nord Stream 1, while other export channels are also unused, or at reduced capacity usage.

Uniper on Wednesday, August 17, reported a 12.3-billion-euro ($12.5 billion) loss which it said was due to Russian export cuts.

Here is how Uniper ended up in such dire straits.

August

Germany sets a gas levy that allows Uniper and its rivals to pass on 90% of the costs related to gas purchases to offset lower Russian gas supplies to customers from October 1, in a move to save its importers from faltering.

July

The German government agrees to a 15-billion-euro Uniper rescue deal and will take a 30% stake and more than quadruple a credit line with state-lender KfW to 9 billion euros.

Germany earlier committed itself to raising money via a gas levy to fund bailouts for importers and uphold its gas distribution.

Gazprom cuts gas flows on the Nord Stream 1 (NS 1) pipeline to a fifth of capacity.

June

Russia turns down gas exports after the West imposed sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine, citing the delayed return of serviced equipment on the main NS 1 route. NS 1 flows fall to 40% capacity.

Uniper withdraws 2022 outlook and calls for bailout.

May

Uniper implements Moscow’s demand to pay for gas in roubles which the European Commission said could breach sanctions.

April

Uniper hit by 3-billion-euro first quarter net loss, impairments related to Russian generation unit.

March

Uniper tries to appease investor concerns by signaling exit from Russia and sale of its 83.7% Unipro stake.

February

Uniper says it will propose a 95% cut in its 2021 dividend.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline link in which it was a co-financier, is abandoned amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leaving a 1-billion-euro write-down. It would have doubled the NS 1’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters a year.

Russia on February 24 invades Ukraine, calling it a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor.

January

Uniper secures credit facilities worth 10 billion euros from main shareholder Fortum and German state bank KfW plus 1.8 billion euros in bank loans in a precautionary move to address high prices and volatility.

2021

Global gas markets became tight in a post-COVID-19 recovery and Russia started sending less westwards, pointing to the imminent start of Nord Stream 2, which it said would increase supply.

Uniper, which was feeling stress from a shift to decarbonization that forced the shutdown of coal plants, maintained throughout that Russia was a reliable shipper.

Legacy

Uniper represents the legacy business of Ruhrgas which E.ON took over in 2003 and fully absorbed in 2013.

The purchase which cemented joint German-Russian trade and hydrocarbon exploration links was opposed by the cartel office and by some as pandering to pro-Moscow business interests.

E.ON spun off a majority of Uniper in 2016 and later agreed to sell its remaining stake to Fortum, which now holds 78%. – Rappler.com

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