21 Sep 2022 11:16 am
The federal government, the energy company Uniper and the former Finnish Uniper majority owner Fortum have agreed on the extensive nationalization of the gas supplier. A corresponding stabilization package for Uniper was signed on Wednesday.
The German state will take over all Uniper shares previously held by the energy company Fortum, which amount to almost 78 percent. After completion of a capital increase and the acquisition of the Uniper shares, the federal government will own around 98.5 percent of the total shares, according to information from the previous Finnish majority shareholder Fortum. The state will pay 480 million euros for Fortum’s shares, said Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck on Wednesday in Berlin. Fortum writes as justification in the stock exchange announcement:
“Since the stabilization package for Uniper was agreed in July, Uniper’s financial situation has continued to deteriorate rapidly and significantly.”
According to information from Business Insider the gas importer ranks second among the top-selling companies in Germany, after the automobile manufacturer Volkswagen. In 2021, Uniper was able to report sales of 163 billion euros. About a third of the employees work in Germany. 11,500 people are employed worldwide.
The federal government has also planned a financial injection of around 8 billion euros, according to the Focus. The Ministry of Economic Affairs announced on Wednesday in Berlin that the federal government had announced that the nationalization of the energy company was a matter of urgency. The decision resulted from “the complete cessation of contractually agreed gas supplies from Russia and the sharp rise in gas prices,” the news agency wrote dpa. The Ministry of Economy announced:
“Through the majority takeover decided today, the federal government has gained the essential say and control rights in the company in order to be able to ensure security of supply in Germany.”
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the acquisition of the shares could only take place after “various regulatory requirements have been met and approval by Uniper’s general meeting”. In addition, according to Uniper, the state-owned KfW-Bank (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) must provide the gas company with funds according to its liquidity needs. This also includes the replacement of a credit line from Fortum, which would currently consist of a shareholder loan of four billion euros and a so-called guarantee line of four billion euros dpa.
Minister Habeck explained at a press conference that the nationalization of Uniper “raised the question of whether a gas surcharge could be levied”. A possible gas levy will help the German economy to get through this “difficult time”, Habeck told journalists. Of the Focus quotes the minister as saying that the gas surcharge will come from October 1st. Habeck further:
“It will be assessed whether it is constitutional after Uniper’s nationalization. If the gas surcharge cannot be levied, we need an alternative. Everyone agrees on that.”
Observers go according to the dpa assumes “that the takeover of Uniper by the federal government will represent the largest rescue operation for a single company in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany”. The Verdi union welcomes the government’s decision. “The takeover by the federal government is necessary to ensure security of supply and it is in the interests of the employees,” said Verdi federal board member Christoph Schmitz on Wednesday in Berlin.
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