Shares in Uniper, Germany’s largest buyer of Russian gas, tumbled by a fifth on Thursday after the company warned on profits, withdrew its annual forecast and said it was in talks with the government over possible support.
The Düsseldorf-based group said it expected earnings before interest and taxes to be “significantly below” previous years, as it was receiving just 40 per cent of the gas ordered from Russia’s Gazprom.
“Uniper currently procures substitution volumes at significantly higher prices,” the company said late on Wednesday, adding that since it “cannot yet pass on these additional costs, this results in significant financial burdens”.
The company confirmed that it was in talks with the German government on “stabilisation measures” to secure liquidity, which could include “equity investments” and an expansion of a €2bn credit facility agreed with the state-owned KfW bank at the start of the year, when Uniper found itself on the wrong side of energy price hedges.
That line of credit has not yet been drawn, Uniper said.
Uniper shares were down 21 per cent at €13 in early trading on Thursday.
The announcement by Uniper comes a week after the German government triggered the second stage of its national gas emergency plan, which paves the way for rationing in the event of persistent shortages.
In such an event, Uniper said it assumed that the “current charges can partially be passed on”, which would relieve some of the pressure on the group’s balance sheet, although the precise details of such a scheme are still being ironed out by Berlin.
Germany’s plan remains to fill gas storage facilities in the country to 90 per cent by November, which could help Europe’s largest economy see through the winter if Russian supplies were completely cut off.
However, storage facilities are at present only 60 per cent full, and the government has announced that procuring the remaining 30 per cent “cannot be achieved without additional measures” if Russian gas supplies via Nord Stream 1 remain at this low level.
Shares in Finnish state-owned energy company Fortum, which owns almost 80 per cent of Uniper, were down by almost 8 per cent in early trading on Thursday.