BERLIN/HELSINKI (Reuters): Germany said on Wednesday it had agreed to nationalise Uniper, raising the bill to rescue the gas importer to 29 billion euros amid an escalating energy crisis that shows just how much Europe’s top economy has relied on Russian fuel.
The deal brings the total cash pumped into Germany’s three biggest importers of Russian gas, also including EnBW’s VNG division and former Gazprom unit Sefe, to at least 40 billion euros.
Nationalising Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas is the second move in a week by the government to take control of an energy business and is part of a wider European response to the winter crisis, including France taking over EDF. Germany last week also took control of a Russian-owned oil refinery, which supplies 90% of the capital’s fuel, putting a Rosneft unit under the trusteeship of the industry regulator and taking over the Schwedt plant.
Uniper, whose shares fell as much as 39% to 2.55 euros, burned through its cash buying alternative supplies after Moscow cut gas flows to Germany, triggering an initial 15 billion euro state rescue package in July.
But as with other European energy companies that have failed to cope with soaring gas prices, it soon became clear that the bailout was not enough to cover Uniper’s deepening losses and Germany will now inject yet more cash, partly by buying out Finnish utility Fortum’s 56% holding for 500 million euros, or 1.70 euros per share.
Fortum shares were up 8.7% at 13.15 euros per share at 1150 GMT.
After completing a capital increase and the Fortum share buy, which excludes the Finnish firm’s subscription rights, Germany will hold 99% of Uniper, its economy ministry said.
“The state will – that’s what we’re showing now – do everything possible to always keep the companies stable on the market,” German economy minister Robert Habeck told reporters.
Berlin has said it would review an application earlier this month by VNG which asked the government for aid to stay afloat.
Habeck also said Berlin will impose a gas levy on consumers as planned from the start of October to help importers with the additional costs of replacing Russian gas.