Germany OKs bailout for energy distributor
BERLIN — The German government will take a roughly 30% stake in energy supplier Uniper as part of a rescue package prompted by surging prices for natural gas and reduced Russian deliveries, the company and Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday.
Uniper, which has been Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas used to fuel industry, generate electricity and heat homes, asked for a bailout two weeks ago. German officials quickly pledged that they would help, but thrashing out the details took time. One result will be higher prices for customers.
Uniper had previously downgraded its financial outlook for this year, pointing to a sharp reduction in gas deliveries by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom in recent weeks that has forced it to buy substitute supplies at significantly higher prices.
Scholz said Uniper is “of paramount significance for the economic development of our country and for energy supply to individual citizens, but also to many companies.”
“It was necessary to stabilize Uniper now,” he told reporters in Berlin. “If I remember rightly, about 60% of gas imports in Germany are ultimately organized in a certain way via this distributor. That is a very, very big chunk, so it’s clear you can imagine that there would have been practically no company at the end of these supply chain that wouldn’t be affected.”
The package announced Friday will result in an increase in consumers’ gas prices, which have already been high and are driving inflation. Scholz said a levy for gas customers will start in September or October that could lead to an increase of 2 euro cents per kilowatt hour, which could add up to about $200 to $300 per year to the bill for a family of four.