Germany takes a stake in struggling gas supplier Uniper

With the entry of the German government, the shareholding of Uniper’s largest shareholder, a Finnish energy company called Fortum, will fall from 80 per cent to 56 per cent. Fortum had given Uniper 8 billion euros in support and loan guarantees, and the Finnish government, which holds the majority stake in Fortum, had refused to provide further support.

“The German government is making shareholders, including Fortum, take some of the pain,” said Deepa Venkateswaran, a utilities analyst at Bernstein, a research firm. She estimated that Uniper is losing €55 million a day.

For decades, Uniper bought most of its gas from Gazprom, Russia̵[ads1]7;s state-owned supplier, and sold it to German factories and municipalities. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Gazprom has broken its long-term contracts and started reducing the amount of gas it supplies to Europe, allowing Uniper to buy gas from other suppliers at higher prices.

Uniper has been in talks with the government for several weeks and made a formal request for help on 8 July. The company has tried to portray itself as an important cog in Germany’s energy system that was worth saving, not only as a leading importer of natural gas that it sells to dozens of municipalities and businesses, but also because of its work with the government to build one of the country’s first terminals for receiving liquefied natural gas.

This effort would allow Germany to import fuel from a variety of sources, including the United States, and ease the country’s dependence on Russia. Before the February 24 invasion, Russia gave Germany 55 percent of its natural gas supply. In the weeks immediately following, it was able to reduce this dependence by approximately 20 percent.

Uniper is also taking steps to develop hydrogen, which has been designated as the clean energy fuel of the future. “I am pleased and relieved that today’s agreement stabilizes Uniper financially as a system-critical energy partner,” Maubach said.

Germany’s government encourages consumers to save energy. It is also replacing gas-powered generators with plants fired by coal and lignite – both of which emit more climate-warming emissions – in an effort to save more gas for heating homes and power plants.

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