The European Commission has approved the acquisition of Uniper SE by the German government, it said on Friday, paving the way for nationalizing the gas trading firm which nearly collapsed after Russia stopped supplying gas.
The acquisition was approved under the EU merger regulation after the Commission concluded it would raise no competition concerns. The Commission still needs to approve Uniper’s bailout under state aid rules.
“The transaction was prompted by the ongoing European energy crisis, in particular the cessation of Russian gas deliveries and the sharp rise in gas prices, which resulted in Uniper, Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas, requiring significant capital injections to prevent its insolvency,” the Commission said.
Gazprom used to be Uniper’s biggest gas supplier, but deliveries were reduced in the summer and fully halted at the end of August, forcing Uniper to buy gas elsewhere at much higher prices to meet existing contracts.
The EU’s clearance of the acquisition comes just days before a planned extraordinary shareholder meeting on Dec. 19 at which Uniper’s investors are to approve the bailout, which has so far cost more than 51 billion euros ($54 billion).
“This is an important step in the proceedings,” a spokesperson for Germany’s Economy Ministry, which was key in negotiating the nationalization, said.