Germany’s Uniper says government could take majority stake

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German firm Uniper (ETR: UN01 ) said on Wednesday the government could take a controlling stake in the company as the ailing gas importer seeks more help, sending its shares tumbling . in one fifth.

Uniper, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas, depleted its cash reserves by buying gas on the expensive spot market after Moscow cut flows to Germany, triggering a rescue package with Berlin agreed in July.

But that package, which has totaled 19 billion euros ($19 billion), is no longer enough, and Uniper needs more.

“The parties are studying alternative solutions, among others, a direct capital increase that would lead to a significant majority participation of the German state,” it said in a statement.

In July, Berlin said it would take a 30% stake as part of a rescue deal for the group, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas, as rising energy prices eat into the firm’s cash reserves. .

Uniper’s CEO, Klaus-Dieter Maubach, had pointed out in July the possibility that the German government would end up having more than 50% of the company.

No decision has been made so far beyond what was agreed in July, Uniper said on Wednesday. Its shares fell as much as 20.5%, reaching an all-time low. They were down 13% at 1238 GMT.

“We estimate that an additional €4.5bn capital injection may be required,” Bernstein analysts said, adding that this would take the government’s stake to 88% and dilute Fortum ‘s (HE: FORTUM ) stake to 8% from 78%.

THE ONLY SOLUTION: NATIONALIZE

The Economy Ministry said it was in talks with Uniper, and Fortum also said dialogue with the German government was continuing. “We want the discussions to come to a successful conclusion, that’s why we are not commenting,” said a ministry spokesman.

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Bloomberg reported earlier in the day that the government could take a more than 50% stake, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Uniper has obtained 13,000 million euros of credit lines from the State, most of which has already been used. Last month he requested more state aid, raising his bailout bill to €19 billion.

“Nationalization is the only solution left for us, Uniper’s capital resources are totally submerged. Mathematically speaking, there is nothing more that can be done,” a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The state will take more than 50% of the stake, and is likely to take full ownership, the source said, adding there were few alternatives left.

Harald Seegatz, head of Uniper’s workers’ council and deputy chairman of the group’s supervisory board, said he would welcome the government’s taking a majority stake, noting the security this would bring to the workforce.

The cost of replacing falling gas imports from Russia’s Gazprom (MCX: GAZP ) following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine led Uniper to a €12.3bn loss in the first half of the year.

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