With winter approaching, Germany has been taking extraordinary steps to stabilise its energy market. Berlin’s latest move came Wednesday when the government announced a deal to nationalise the country’s biggest gas importing company, Uniper.
The deal with Uniper features a capital increase of 8 billion euros, which the government will finance. Berlin will also pay around 500 million euros to buy the majority stake from Finland-based Fortum.
In total, the government will gain a 99 per cent stake in Uniper, which was Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas until Moscow cut supplies to European countries supporting Ukraine. Before the war, the firm bought about half of its gas from Russia.
Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck said the deal was crucial because of the significance Uniper plays in the German gas market.
“Uniper is a central pillar of German energy supplies,” the economy ministry said in a statement.
Uniper supplies about 40 percent of gas customers in Germany, but has been on the brink of collapse since it was forced to buy more expensive gas from alternate suppliers.
The nationalisation deal with Uniper builds on a bailout package agreed with the government in July, and follows Berlin’s decision last week to take control of three refineries owned by Russian oil giant Rosneft.
These moves are part of a larger plan to secure energy supplies before cooler weather sets in and ahead of an EU-mandated embargo of Russian oil set to take effect next year.
Before the war, Germany relied on Russia for more than half of its natural gas imports and about a third of its oil imports.