EU imposes tough conditions on Germany’s Uniper bailout

The European Commission has approved a German government bailout for struggling gas importer Uniper, but imposed a series of difficult conditions including forcing the company to sell one of its suppliers. Germany’s most modern electric machine.

unit will have to divest the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant in the Ruhr industrial region, which will come into operation in 2020 and is considered one of the most advanced facilities of its kind. It will also have to sell a gas-fired power plant in the Hungarian city of Gönyu.

The commission’s decision paves the way for the German government to buy 99% of the company’s shares. About 70% will be acquired from the previous majority owner, Finnish state energy group Fortum, and the rest from smaller shareholders.

Fortum announced on Wednesday that it has completed the sale of its Uniper stake to the German state. But under the deal approved by Brussels, Berlin will also have to reduce its stake in Uniper to a little more than 25% by 2028.

Harald Seegatz, Uniper’s head of work and vice chairman of the supervisory board, described the committee’s requests as “drastic cuts” to the company. The proposed divestment of Datteln 4 and Uniper’s district heating business, he said, is “particularly painful for the affected colleagues in Germany, just days before Christmas”.

Uniper said the conditions from Brussels were “painful” but “did not affect the company’s future”.

As Russia’s largest gas customer in Europe, Uniper was one of the biggest losers in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which plunged Germany into its worst energy crisis since the war. second world war.

The company began to lose tens of millions of euros a day after the drastic Russian Gazprom case reduce gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in mid-June.

To fulfill its contracts, it is forced to buy gas on the spot market, often at a much higher price. Officials in Berlin worry the company’s collapse could trigger a Lehman Brothers pattern The meltdown of the entire German energy industry.

The company went public in September, subject to approval from Brussels, and two months after the report a loss of 40 billion euros in the first 9 months of the yearone of the biggest in company history.

Brussels announced late on Tuesday that it was approving the German government’s bailout, which includes a cash package of 8 billion euros and could total up to 34.5 billion euros, according to institute rules. EU state aid, said the aid amount “does not exceed the minimum required”. to ensure Uniper’s viability.”

But it insisted on divesting assets such as Datteln 4 and Gönyu and “several international subsidiaries”. It will be forced to sell its stake in several pipelines such as Opal, which links the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe’s onshore power grids and its 84% ​​stake in Russian utility Unipro,

Uniper will also have to provide some of its pipeline and gas storage capacity to competitors.

A person close to the company said it announced three weeks ago that it wanted to sell its stake in Unipro and that Gönyu is its only property in Hungary, so it cannot be ignored. But other divestments will be more difficult: Datteln 4, which cost more than 1 billion euros to build, is a “stable source of income” for the company, and regional heating is part of its “business.” core business” of Uniper.

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