Berlin, SANA- The German government said Wednesday that it has agreed to nationalize the country’s biggest natural gas importer, Uniper, expanding state intervention in the industry to prevent an energy shortage.
The deal with Uniper builds on a rescue package agreed to in July and features a capital increase of 8 billion euros (dollars) that Germany will finance. As part of the agreement, the government will gain a 99% stake in the energy supplier, which until now was controlled by Finland-based Fortum. The Finnish government has the largest stake in Fortum.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the deal was necessary because of the significance that Uniper plays in the German gas market. It still needs to be approved by the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm.
Uniper supplies about 40% of all gas customers in Germany, and before the war, it bought about half of its gas from Russia.
The company’s losses have mounted as Russia has reduced natural gas supplies to European countries supporting Ukraine. The cuts have contributed to high prices for the fuel needed to heat homes, generate electricity and power factories, raising fears of business closures, rationing and a recession as the weather turns cold. Uniper has been forced to buy gas at far higher prices on the market to fulfill its supply contracts.
European countries have scrambled to counter the price spiral and prioritized securing their energy supplies for winter, including by filling their natural gas storage. Just last week, Germany also moved to take control of three Russian-owned oil refineries before an embargo on Russian oil takes effect next year.
Habeck noted that Germany has managed to fill its gas storage facilities to over 90% capacity in preparation for the winter heating season despite Russia halting gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Wholesale prices for gas have almost halved since the summer, he said.
Bushra Dabin / Amer Dawa