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Bavaria to force through takeover of Uniper's hydropower plants

MUNICH (Reuters) - Bavaria will make use of laws that allow it to buy more than 85 hydropower plants from Uniper in the southern German state, its premier said on Thursday, undermining the nationalised utility's plans to boost renewable energy.

Officials from Bavaria and Uniper have said the state government can enforce a transfer against Uniper's will, or that of its owner, Germany's federal government.

Bavaria has a long tradition of seeking to manage its own affairs, and there is no love lost between its conservative premier Markus Soeder and the federal government led by centre-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Bavaria, which said it would begin transferring the assets from 2030, would have to pay compensation and honour contracts.

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Soeder told the state parliament on Thursday that Bavaria had so far not managed to reach an agreement with Uniper.

His government was acting on the principle of "local energy in local hands", he added.

It was not immediately clear how much compensation Bavaria would have to pay and how many megawatts of capacity would be affected.

A Uniper spokesperson said running hydropower plants required considerable capital and skilled personnel.

"Uniper and its predecessor companies have proven over many decades that they can operate the plants safely, efficiently and environmentally friendly (...)", he added.

Uniper has hydropower plants in Germany and Sweden. It operates 99 river plants in Germany, mostly in Bavaria, according to its website.

While its main revenue source is still its natural gas business, the Duesseldorf-based utility aims to grow in renewable energy.

Uniper was rescued by the German government in 2022 after Russia cut and then suspended gas supplies, forcing the group to buy gas at sky-high prices on the spot market.

Berlin is preparing to sell its Uniper shares on the stock market. Sources in February told Reuters it may divest 20%-30% in a first step next year.

(Reporting by Joern Poltz; Additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Thomas Seythal; Editing by Mark Potter)