Uniper, a German energy provider, is talking to the government about a possible bailout, the economy ministry said Thursday, making it the first major utility to seek help since the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom slashed deliveries to Germany two weeks ago.
Uniper’s share price tumbled 20 percent after it revised a financial forecast, saying that it expected earnings to be “significantly below” those of previous years. The company, based in Düsseldorf, is Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas. Since mid-June, the company said, it has been receiving only 40 percent of the gas it ordered from Gazprom, forcing it to purchase gas on the spot market “at significantly higher prices.”
This month, Gazprom reduced the amount of gas it was sending to Europe through Nord Stream 1, an undersea pipeline that links Russian gas fields to Germany’s northeastern coast. The reduced supplies have forced utilities across Europe to buy gas at high prices as governments scramble to fill storage tanks before winter.
“The German government and Uniper are in talks about stabilization measures,” the economy ministry said on Thursday.
Uniper’s chief executive, Klaus-Dieter Maubach, said his company was discussing several options with the government, including credit facilities and even a government stake in the company. Uniper plays an important role in providing gas to municipally owned utilities across Germany, and is helping the state store gas needed to get the country through the winter.
Last week the German government triggered the second stage of its three-step energy gas plan. The next and final step would allow the state to begin ordering gas rationing that would give priority to essential public services, including hospitals, and to heating private homes over industry.
Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, has warned that if Russian gas deliveries remain as low as they are now, the country could face a shortage by winter.
He said the financial squeeze on German energy companies could be severe, comparing the contagion effect to the way the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the global financial crisis.