Uniper, Germany’s largest gas importer, has gotten into trouble as a result of the war in Ukraine and the halt to Russian gas deliveries. The federal government intervenes and becomes the majority shareholder with around 99 percent of the shares. FOCUS online answers all the questions you need to know about the takeover.

It’s official: the federal government is investing heavily in Uniper. “Uniper will belong to the German state,” said Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) on Wednesday morning. After completing a capital increase and acquiring the company’s shares from the previous majority shareholder Fortum, the federal government will own around 98.5 percent of the shares in the gas group.

The Finnish energy group Fortum currently holds almost 78 percent of Uniper. After the takeover, these shares will go to the German state. The rescue operation is considered one of the largest in the history of the Federal Republic. The most important questions and answers about the Uniper takeover.

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Uniper is the largest gas importer and gas trader in Germany. The listed company was created in 2016 through a spin-off of electricity generation from coal, gas, hydropower and global energy trading from E.ON. The Finnish energy group Fortum has held most of the shares in Uniper since 2020. In addition, Uniper has stakes in three nuclear power plants in Sweden and Finland and in coal-fired power plants in Russia. Uniper’s turnover last year was 163 billion euros. In Germany, only the carmaker Volkswagen was able to achieve larger sales in 2021.

However, the Russian attack on Ukraine and the associated lack of gas deliveries from Russia have recently put the group in trouble. As early as July, the federal government felt compelled to invest 30 percent in order to support the energy company. Overall, the federal government has already put together a billion-euro rescue package worth 15 billion euros.

The size of the company is decisive for the takeover step. No less than 40 percent of the German gas supply depends on Uniper, so Uniper is systemically important or “too big to fail”. According to company information, the power generation capacity is 33 gigawatts. This was used to supply around 22 million German households last year. Numerous municipal utilities and branches of industry in Germany are dependent on Uniper.

Why not let Uniper go bankrupt? The federal government had thoroughly examined this step. That’s according to research from Business Insider. The reason for this was the imminent downgrading of the Group’s creditworthiness by rating agencies. The economic ability to continue the business activities was doubted. The consequential damage of a Uniper bankruptcy would have been too high. Municipal utilities and industries across the country were threatened with bankruptcy.

The taxpayer has to shell out a total cost of around 30 billion euros for the takeover of Uniper. The previous majority shareholder Fortum will receive eight billion euros back from the federal government, and the federal government may subscribe to the new shares. According to Habeck’s calculations, this means that the federal government has a stake of around 93 percent in Uniper.

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In addition, the federal government is also taking over Fortum’s shares – the Finnish group last held 78 percent of Uniper. This results in a federal participation of around 99 percent. However, according to Habeck, the nationalization that is set in motion can only be carried out in three months.

In the winter of 2021, the share price was still around 40 euros. There is not much left of that today: the price has currently fallen well below 4 euros (as of September 21, 2022). This makes the Uniper share one of the biggest price losers as a result of the Ukraine war. The stabilization package signed by the federal government, Uniper SE and Fortum Oyj now includes a capital increase of eight billion euros. The issue price per share, excluding shareholders’ subscription rights, is EUR 1.70.

One thing is clear: Anyone who is still on board and wants to make price gains with Uniper shares is moving in highly speculative territory. If Russia decides to supply gas to Germany again and the market prices drop to low levels as a result, the stock could recover. Due to the current tensions, however, an easing of tension on the gas market is not to be expected. It may be some time before the political relationship with Russia improves again.

After the capital increase, small shareholders only hold one percent of the future shares. It is to be expected that the state will make them a mandatory offer. The exit is still open. The capital increase ultimately further dilutes shareholders’ interests and puts pressure on the stock. Stock market experts advise against investing in the paper.

For the time being, nothing will change for gas customers with the takeover. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) also wants to stick to the gas levy for the time being. This means that gas importers can continue to pass on their additional costs to their customers. From October, customers will have to pay 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour. However, criticism of the gas surcharge increased after the takeover.

Despite the takeover, the gas surcharge is to be introduced on October 1, “as a bridge until nationalization takes effect,” says Habeck. Most recently, Jens Spahn (CDU) from the opposition criticized the adherence to the gas levy on the television channel “Welt”: “We would like to see the total billions that have now been spent on Uniper. And one thing is also quite clear: the gas levy is no longer needed if it is a state-owned company, then the state should also secure the gas supplies there with guarantees, for example, but not burden the citizens additionally. The gas surcharge should be abolished. That is now clear at the latest.”

Andreas Jung (CDU), energy and climate policy spokesman for the Union faction, spoke out against it: “If your inventor even questions the legality, there is no stopping him,” he told the “Rheinische Post”. “The gas surcharge has to go. The light must now go back to go and rebuild the whole edifice of support and assistance in the energy crisis.”

In view of the possible nationalization of Uniper, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) had previously expressed “constitutional financial doubts” according to information from the German Press Agency. Habeck is also said to have indicated that the financing requirements for the gas suppliers are significantly higher than when the first rescue package for Uniper was negotiated. It is becoming increasingly clear that the unstable situation needs “the power and the guarantee of the state as well as all the financial strength of the state” that is necessary, it said. However, the Ministry of Finance is responsible for the final examination and responsibility for the financial constitutional law.

The Federal Ministry of Finance said on Tuesday evening when asked by dpa: “There are no legal concerns. Economics Minister Habeck can introduce the gas levy he has proposed as planned.”