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Germany considers nationalizing another gas importer

September 22, 2022

SEFE, formerly known as Gazprom Germania, could become the second German gas importer to be protected from bankruptcy after Russia cut off supplies.

Natural gas pipes in Germany
Germany's natural gas importers are threatened with bankruptcy as costs skyrocketImage: Ingo Wagner/dpa/picture alliance

Following the nationalization of gas giant Uniper earlier in the week, the German government on Thursday confirmed it was considering the takeover of SEFE, the German subsidiary of Russia's energy behemoth Gazprom. 

Plans to nationalize SEFE were first reported in German news magazine Der Spiegel. Later, a spokeswoman for Economy Minister Robert Habeck said government talks about the future of the company are ongoing. 

She could not provide further details. SEFE had no immediate comment.

"Discussions are ongoing in the federal government regarding the future of SEFE," a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economics told Reuters news agency.

SEFE under federal trusteeship since April

In June, the government placed Gazprom Germania, as it was then known, into long-term administration and provided it with a loan of up to €10 billion ($10.4 billion) to stop the company from insolvency.

The company was taken under temporary administration following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

With assets and subsidiaries in Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, the Czech Republic and outside Europe, the firm's activities are essential for the European gas market and supplies to industry and households.

Germany's winter gas woes

As winter approaches, Germany is doing all it can to save natural gas. Gas storage tanks are over 90% full.

On Thursday, Habeck said Germany must fully utilize its fiscal policy to preserve the economy and keep business and industry investments going.

He added that being forced to replace Russian energy imports would cost Europe's biggest economy some €60 billion this year and €100 billion next year.

Germany last week also took control of a Russian-owned oil refinery, which supplies 90% of fuel for the capital, Berlin.

With the Uniper nationalization, Germany is pumping at least €40 billion into its three biggest Russian gas importers Uniper, SEFE and EnBW's VNG division.

Germany's small businesses face tough choices

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

lo/wmr (dpa, Reuters)