The federal government has already invested more than 13 billion euros in rescuing the energy company Uniper, and it still holds almost 20 billion euros in reserve for the now nationalized utility to compensate for possible further losses from gas trading by the end of 2024. But at least for the time being, it looks like taxpayers will be spared additional burdens. "I can confirm that no further capital injections by the federal government are necessary," said interim CEO Jutta Dönges at the Annual General Meeting.
Business correspondent in Dusseldorf.
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Uniper supplies hundreds of municipal utilities and industrial companies with natural gas. The Russian supply freeze had brought the group to the brink of bankruptcy because it had to procure gas on the market at exorbitantly high prices as a substitute. In the meantime, the delivery obligations for 2023 and 2024 are almost completely covered by forward contracts. Because prices have fallen significantly since last year, Uniper now even expects a pre-tax profit of more than two billion euros from hedging transactions. "Uniper has solid ground under its feet again," said Dönges.
After an operating loss (EBIT) of EUR 10.9 billion and a net loss of EUR 7.4 billion, the Group is aiming to return to the black this year. Adjusted EBIT of around EUR 750 million had already been achieved in the first quarter. The hard coal-fired power plants, which Uniper brought back to market at the request of the German government in order to reduce gas consumption in electricity production, also contributed to this.
A tanker in Wilhelmshaven every eight days
Dönges described the completion of the first liquefied natural gas terminal in Wilhelmshaven as a "milestone". Since December, a tanker has docked there about every eight days. Each charge could supply around 50,000 households for a year. However, Dönges also referred to the unpredictable consequences of the Ukraine war for the energy markets and adhered to the earlier earnings outlook. "Despite the very positive development for Uniper, we remain cautious," she said.
On the Executive Board, Dönges is responsible for finances and has been managing the Group on an interim basis since the resignation of CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach. At the beginning of June, former Eon manager Michael Lewis will come as the new Uniper boss, who used the Annual General Meeting for a short introduction.
Its main task will be to return the state's share as soon as possible. 99.12 percent of the shares are held by the federal government as a result of the bailout. He has committed himself to the EU Commission to present a plan by the end of the year to reduce the stake to 25 percent plus one share. "To this end, we will contribute our ideas in the coming months. Our goal is to return Uniper as an independent company to predominantly private hands as quickly as possible," said Dönges. As part of the EU's conditions for approving state aid, Uniper will also have to sell a number of holdings and companies.
In addition to the stake in the Russian energy supplier Unipro, this includes the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant, which went into operation a few years ago. The sale process for this has not yet begun, and the deadline set by the Commission for the sale runs until the end of 2026. Uniper is to become faster in its focus on green electricity. The goal is to develop one gigawatt of ready-to-build capacity every year from 2024 onwards. He is convinced that Uniper will play a "leading role" in the transformation of the energy system, said the designated new CEO Lewis, who led Eon's renewables business for many years.