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Power station owner Uniper posts £10bn loss as gas shortages bite

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Bill Allsopp/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Bill Allsopp/Alamy

The owner of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire has posted a €12bn (£10bn) loss weeks after agreeing a bailout package with the German government, in a set of results that signal the deepening energy crisis across Europe.

Uniper received a €15bn lifeline from the German state in return for a 30% equity stake in a deal agreed in July.

The energy company has been left stranded by the drop in gas deliveries from Russia in the fallout from the war in Ukraine. On Wednesday, it said the huge loss included a €6.5bn hit related to anticipated future gas shortages.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has turned the screw on western Europe by limiting gas supplies, including through the crucial Nord Stream 1 pipeline into northern Germany.

Uniper, which has seen its share price collapse by 80% this year, also took a €2.7bn charge relating to various activities including a loan to Nord Stream 2, another pipeline project, which was abandoned after the start of the war.

Germany and other EU nations have rushed to fill up gas storage facilities before a potential cut in Russian gas supplies this winter. About 50% of Uniper’s profit margin used to come from Russian-generated gas, leaving it exposed when supplies were curbed.

Germany has set a target of filling 90% of its gas storage by November, with ministers attempting to avoid blackouts that could affect production in powerhouse industries. Stockpiles are 77% full, two weeks ahead of schedule.

Investors are now more pessimistic about the German economy than they have been since the eurozone debt crisis more than a decade ago, according to research body the ZEW Institute. Economists fear runaway energy prices and cuts in Russian gas could tip the country into recession, causing knock-on effects for trading partners including Britain.

Klaus Müller, president of Bundesnetzagentur, Germany’s energy regulator, said on Wednesday that refilling gas inventories to 95% full by November would cover less than three months of heating, industrial and power demand if Russia cuts off supplies.

Müller said: “We are a little bit faster in terms of filling up storage, but it is not a sign we can relax. It should be understood as a push, instead. Let’s keep it going.”

Uniper’s chief executive, Klaus-Dieter Maubach, said: “Uniper has for months been playing a crucial role in stabilising Germany’s gas supply – at the cost of billions in losses resulting from the sharp drop in gas deliveries from Russia.”

Uniper owns the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station as well as a string of UK gas plants. A representative of the company attended the high-profile meeting between energy executives and Boris Johnson last week, the government looking for solutions to the cost of living crisis.

Allegra Dawes, analyst for industrials, materials and energy at research firm Third Bridge, said: “On a positive note, Uniper should be more financially stable due to the cost-absorption mechanism and that it is now allowed to pass through costs to customers through the renegotiation of its current long-term contracts.

“The German government will use all its means to stop Uniper from touching its gas reserves to ensure energy security and prepare for the winter.”