Frankfurt; Germany plans to nationalize the country’s three biggest natural gas companies – Uniper, VNG and Securing Energy for Europe (formerly Gazprom Germany) – to shore up the country’s faltering energy market. Of these, Uniper also explicitly admitted that it could gain managerial control of the company with equity investment from the government.
Unipar is the largest importer of Russian natural gas to Germany. After Moscow cut supplies to Germany due to the Ukraine War and subsequent sanctions, the company had to compensate by buying expensive gas on the open market. The bankrupt company has since been forced to provide a palliative fiscal stimulus agreed by the German government in July. However, this fiscal stimulus, which has increased to 19 billion euros (about Rs 1.5 lakh crore), is not enough to cure Unipar’s ailments.
Uniper CEO Claus-Dieter Mobach, who is exploring other options, has publicly expressed the possibility that the government could acquire a 50 percent stake in the company and acquire ownership. The 30 per cent equity stake was taken as part of the ‘bailout package’ announced by the government in July.
Analysts estimate Unipar may need additional equity capital of €4.5 billion. At this rate, the government’s stake can go up to 88 per cent and the equity of Fortum, the current majority shareholder, will be reduced to 8 per cent from the current 78 per cent.
Unipar lost 12.3 billion euros in the first half of 2022 due to the cost of replacing those imports following the suspension of air supplies from Russia. Therefore, according to estimates by informed sources, Unipar’s need for additional capital could exceed EUR 8 billion. The same is true of two other big gas importing companies. Analysts also say that the government has no other option but to run these companies.
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