Germany prepares to take possible Uniper stake -Handelsblatt

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BERLIN — Germany is preparing for the possibility of taking a stake in Uniper, the country’s largest buyer of Russian gas, Handelsblatt reported, knocking the energy firm’s share price.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government, which has warned that utilities could face a Lehman Brothers style collapse due to soaring energy prices, has agreed legislation allowing Berlin to take stakes in energy firms which run into financial trouble.

Last week Uniper became the first German energy company to raise the alarm over scarce gas and soaring prices, saying it was in talks about a possible government bailout.

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Handelsblatt said Berlin is in talks about subscribing to a package of new shares of up to 25% in Uniper at a nominal value of 1.70 euros per share and is also discussing a possible silent partnership, an equity instrument without voting rights.

The volume of the deal could be between 3 billion and 5 billion euros, Handelsblatt added.

There was no immediate comment from Uniper when contacted by Reuters. The finance ministry declined to comment on the report.

Uniper shares were down by around 6% in late afternoon trade, having earlier slumped as much as 18%.

Earlier on Tuesday, Germany’s cabinet passed the legislation that would allow Berlin to bail out utilities, with Economy Minister Robert Habeck saying that he cannot rule out that the tense situation on the gas market could further deteriorate.

In a next step, it will be voted on by the lower and upper houses of parliament on Friday. (Additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff and Christian Kraemer; Writing by Paul Carrel and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Alexander Smith)

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