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Nation’s largest gas importer, Uniper nationalised by Germany

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In order to avoid an energy deficit brought on by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the German government announced on Wednesday that it has decided to nationalise Uniper, the nation’s largest natural gas importer.

The transaction, according to Economy Minister Robert Habeck, is essential given the significant role Uniper has in the German gas market. The European Commission, which serves as the executive branch of the European Union, must yet approve it.

A capital boost of 8 billion euros (dollars) will be funded by Germany as part of the agreement with Uniper, which expands on a rescue package reached in July. As part of the deal, the government would acquire a 99% share in the energy provider, which was previously under Fortum’s control in Finland. The major investor in Fortum is the Finnish government.

In Germany, Uniper serves 40% of all gas consumers, and prior to the war, it purchased the majority of its gas from Russia.

In an effort to stem the price rise, European nations have prioritised guaranteeing their winter energy needs, particularly by refuelling their natural gas stockpile. Germany also took action last week to seize control of three oil refineries controlled by Russia before an embargo on Russian oil goes into effect the following year.

As Russia cut back on natural gas shipments to European nations supporting Ukraine, the company’s losses grew. As a result of the reduction, the cost of fuel to heat homes, provide electricity, and run factories has increased, generating concerns about business closures, rationing, and a recession as the weather gets colder. To fulfil its supply agreements, Uniper was compelled to purchase gas from the market at much higher costs.

Habeck added that despite Russia stopping gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Germany was still able to fill its gas storage facilities to over 90% of their capacity in time for the winter heating season. Since the summer, he claimed, gas wholesale prices had practically been cut in half.

This indicates that overall, we have handled the problem well, according to Habeck. “But for Uniper, the situation has drastically deteriorated and gotten very serious.”

The cost of gas continues to be historically high. Habeck cited Uniper’s significance for the German gas market when he said that the government had decided to nationalise the business “to ensure security of supply for Germany.” On the Frankfurt stock exchange on Wednesday, Uniper shares were down by a third from the previous day.

Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, has stated that Germany is prepared to survive the winter with ample energy, citing new liquefied natural gas facilities that are anticipated to begin operations soon among other things. His government stated last Friday that three Russian oil refineries would be taken over by German authorities in order to safeguard energy security. The national network regulator will now be in charge of two subsidiaries of the massive Russian oil company Rosneft.

According to the government, Rosneft imports oil worth several hundred million euros (dollars) each month, making up around 12% of Germany’s capacity for oil refining. The trusteeship was previously expected to continue for six months. After the Kremlin-controlled parent company abruptly severed connections with the unit, the government said it was necessary to appoint the network regulator to oversee Gazprom’s former German business in order to “bring order to the conditions” there.

Environmentalists argued that the government should steer Uniper away from fossil fuels as a result of the corporation being nationalised. According to Olaf Bandt, head of the German environmental organisation BUND, “Uniper must abandon coal and gas in order to participate meaningfully in the energy transition.”

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