Germany has agreed to nationalize its largest gas importer, Uniper, to avert a crisis in the fight against the energy shortages caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The deal builds on a bailout package agreed in July, when Berlin took a 30% stake in the company, and includes a capital injection of €8 billion (about £7 billion) in public money.
Uniper was controlled by the Finnish state energy company Fortum, which welcomed the announcement. It said Berlin would buy its shares for €500 million, giving the state a 98.5% stake in the gas company.
Fortum’s chief executive, Markus Rauramo, said: “Under the current conditions in the European energy markets and recognizing the seriousness of Uniper’s situation, the divestment of Uniper is the right step, not only for Uniper but also for Fortum.
“The role of gas in Europe has fundamentally changed since Russia attacked Ukraine, and so has the prospects for a gas-rich portfolio. As a result, the business case for an integrated group is no longer viable.”
He said Uniper’s losses, caused by Russia’s limited natural gas supplies to European countries that support Ukraine, amounted to nearly $8.5 billion. Missing supplies from Russia had to be replaced by expensive supplies from the open market, where gas prices have risen sharply.
Uniper, which also owns the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire, posted an overall loss of £12bn in August and saw its share price plunge by 90% in the past year.
Europe relies on gas to heat homes and generate electricity to power factories, raising fears of business closures, rationing and a cold-weather recession.
Countries across the continent have made efforts to counter rising gas and electricity prices, help households and businesses and secure their energy supplies for the winter, including by filling their natural gas storage facilities.
Last week, Germany also took control of three Russian-owned oil refineries before an embargo on Russian oil comes into effect next year.