Uniper employees would oppose a break-up, labour boss says

UNIPER-STRATEGY:Uniper labour boss criticises company break-up idea
UNIPER-STRATEGY:Uniper labour boss criticises company break-up idea Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023
By Reuters
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By Tom Käckenhoff and Christoph Steitz

DUESSELDORF -Uniper employees would oppose a break-up of Germany’s biggest gas importer, a labour leader said in an interview published on Friday, after the idea was floated in a discussion paper regarding the nationalised company’s future.

Uniper was told to sell assets last year in exchange for European Union antitrust approval of a government bailout after Russia cut off gas supply, making it the biggest corporate bailout in German history.

But a discussion paper dubbed “Project Orca” which Boston Consulting Group (BCG) wrote for the government explores a possible break-up of the company, which has created unease among employees.

The paper, seen by Reuters, also outlines other options for Uniper and Sefe, a former division of Russia’s Gazprom, ranging from a partial or full merger to the creation of a hydrogen champion based on assets of both firms.

Another option outlined in the paper is the sale of profitable businesses, most notably the power generation business of Uniper which does not require long-term state ownership.

“One disadvantage, depending on how it is structured, is the possible break-up of Uniper in particular, with a corresponding loss of synergies for the group,” the paper, which was first reported by Handelsblatt, said.

But Harald Seegatz, who heads Uniper’s works council and serves as deputy chairman of the group’s supervisory board, said a break-up was not an option.

“Uniper must not be broken up,” he told Reuters. “Otherwise, the group is threatened as a pillar of energy supply in Germany, as many internal synergies are being destroyed,” he added.

Seegatz said labour representatives would raise any questions around the company’s future at a supervisory board meeting in February. Uniper is scheduled to release its full-year results on Feb. 17.

A Uniper spokesperson said the BCG paper was merely a “discussion paper” and that “to our knowledge, there is currently no decision … on structural measures”.

A spokesperson for Sefe said there was no discussion at present about a merger between Sefe and Uniper.

BCG declined to comment.

The Finance Ministry, which is responsible for Berlin’s 99% holding in Uniper, had no immediate comment.

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