(Bloomberg) — Germany will temporarily take control of a unit of Gazprom PJSC in the country as it seeks to safeguard security of gas supply.
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Gazprom Germania GmbH — owner of energy supplier Wingas GmbH and a gas storage firm — will come under the trusteeship of the German energy regulator until Sept. 30, Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters in Berlin. That means the Federal Network Agency will assume the role of a shareholder and can take all necessary measures to ensure security of supply, he said. The government won’t ultimately take ownership of the company.
Gazprom subsidiaries in Europe are coming under pressure as clients and business partners refuse to do business with them, raising the prospect that some won’t survive. Gazprom Germania’s Astora unit operates Germany’s biggest gas storage facility in the northern town of Rehden in the state of Lower Saxony. The site is considered key to Germany’s energy security.
“The federal government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supply in Germany,” Habeck said in a statement on Monday. “This also means that we do not allow energy infrastructures in Germany to be subject to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin.”
Gazprom said on Friday it no longer owned its German subsidiary, which also has a trading arm in the U.K. and units from Switzerland to Singapore. The Russian gas giant didn’t disclose the new ownership, but regulatory filings showed the transaction involved exiting Gazprom Export Business Services LLC, the owner of Gazprom Germania. In turn, a company called Joint Stock Company Palmary became a shareholder of Gazprom Export Business Services LLC.
It isn’t clear who the ultimate beneficial owner of Palmary is: it was registered in October at a Moscow address, and since March 30 its general director was Dmitry Tseplyaev, according to the Russian business register.
Habeck said the Russian gas giant exited the German subsidiary without seeking government approval, violating German foreign trade law.
It’s unclear what happens after Sept. 30, and what implications that will have for Gazprom Germania’s subsidiaries from the U.K. to Singapore. The German unit also owns a London-based trading arm and Gazprom Energy, a retail provider that the U.K. government plans to nationalize in the event it fails.
(Updates with background on U.K. units in last paragraph.)
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