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'Time for a fresh start at Fortum,' says Finnish minister

'Time for a fresh start at Fortum,' says Finnish minister
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By Reuters
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- The Finnish government called for a "fresh start" at state-controlled power utility Fortum on Friday, as it backed a new chairman for the company hammered last year by its reliance on Russian energy.

The nomination board, headed by the Finnish state's representative Maija Strandberg, proposed Mikael Silvennoinen to replace Veli-Matti Reinikkala as the chairman after a very tumultous year during which Fortum lost nearly 6 billion euros ($6.53 billion) and its German subsidiary Uniper.

"Now it's time for a fresh start at Fortum", Tytti Tuppurainen, the minister in charge of state holdings, told reporters, adding that she had high hopes for the new chairman.

Fortum had to agree to sell its majority stake in Uniper to Germany after the German company booked billions in losses following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent rise in energy prices.

"From Fortum's new chairman, I naturally expect the ability to lead the board in this new changed situation in which the state's strategic interest in Fortum is perhaps even stronger than before," Tuppurainen said.

She added that the state, which holds a 51.26% stake in the utility, wants Fortum to ensure electricity production in Finland under all circumstances.

Tuppurainen declined to comment on Fortum Chief Executive Markus Rauramo's position, leaving it for the new board to decide his future.

Reinikkala will step down at April's annual general meeting, having led the board since 2016.

Silvennoinen has a long background in finance and extensive experience as an executive and board member of listed companies, Fortum said.

"In the wake of the changes caused by Russia's war in Ukraine and the European energy crisis, Fortum is repositioning strategically and geographically," Strandberg said in a statement.

The nomination board also proposed to increase the number of board members to 10 from nine, adding six new names including Silvennoinen.

(This story has been refiled to add the dropped first name in the second paragraph)

($1 = 0.9185 euros)

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