Last July, The German government announced a first rescue operation for the energy company Uniper valued at 267 million euros. It soon became clear that this was nothing more than a patchwork, because the relevant documentation presented to the Bundestag recognized that the largest German importer of Russian gas needed an 8 billion euro line of credit from the state bank KfW to guarantee its liquidity.
Due to the drastic reduction in the supply of Russian gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and in order to fulfill its contracts, the company had been forced to buy gas on international markets, at much more expensive prices, and had exhausted the line of credit of 2,000 million agreed with this same bank at the beginning of January.
The German State has ended up organizing the entry into the company with an injection of 7,000 million euros, practically half of its rescue package of 15,000 million for the entire sector (most of it in the form of soft loans and in which the State it involves only up to 30%), but the semi-annual presentation of results puts on the table the true dimension of the problem: Uniper has lost from January to June, or rather from February 24 to the end of June, 12,000 million euros.
The day Putin's army stormed Ukraine, this business model went to waste and now the German gas sector is threatening to go bankrupt, with the consequent geostrategic danger to Germany's economy and security. But the government will not follow in this crisis the rescue model applied during the financial crisis to save the banks. The situation of the energy companies also represents a "systemic risk", but instead of charging their continuity on taxpayers, through state bailouts, this time it will be the company's customers who bear the strain. As of October 1, thanks to a modification of the Energy Security Law, German gas operators will be able to charge customers 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour of supply. As to whether or not this transfer of additional costs on the shoulders of its clients will be enough to save the situation, those responsible for the company prefer not to comment.
According to the presentation, only 6.5 billion euros, about half of the half-year losses, are related to planned future gas supply disruptions in Russia. In addition, there would be impairments amounting to 2,700 million euros. The result should improve in 2023 and get out of the loss zone in 2024. “Uniper has been making an essential contribution to stabilizing gas supply in Germany for months, at the cost of billions in losses that we incurred as a result of the decrease in supply volumes from Russia”, CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach has justified. "The main priority for us now is to implement the stabilization package quickly," he said, even before the situation must be submitted to shareholders for approval at an extraordinary general meeting in the autumn.
Other companies in the German energy sector, however, prefer to stay out of the rescue and will not transfer the extra cost to the bill, in the terms in which the German government has just allowed it. RWE, for example, has said it feels "financially sound" and "therefore we are considering refraining from claiming our losses for now," said CEO Markus Krebber.
To protect itself against the new gas market situation, RWE has closed contracts with other suppliers on time and its storage facilities are filled to 85% of their capacity. The company assumes that it will independently reach the legal minimum fill level of 95% before the date set by the regulations, November 1. And it counts on the restart of coal-fired power plants to balance the scales.