Germany takes temporary control of Gazprom subsidiary

Germany takes temporary control of Gazprom subsidiary

Germany takes temporary control of Gazprom subsidiary

Germany on April 4 put a government agency in charge of a longtime German subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom after an opaque move last week by the parent company to cut ties with the unit.

Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck said Germany’s network regulator has been appointed as Gazprom Germania’s trustee until Sept. 30, with the right to dismiss and appoint managers. He said it is meant as a temporary measure to bring “order to the conditions” at the company.

“The German government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supplies in Germany, and that includes not exposing energy infrastructure in Germany to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin,” Habeck said.

He said Gazprom announced it was withdrawing from Gazprom Germania but did not give details on the new owners, which violates German rules on reporting acquisitions.

The German unit holds several key energy assets, including natural gas supplier Wingas, which has a market share of around 20 percent in Germany, gas storage firm Astora, a London-based trading arm and other foreign subsidiaries.

Habeck said the unit is “of paramount significance” to natural gas trade, transport and storage in Germany and also is active in Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

The minister said officials have found out about an “indirect acquisition” of Gazprom Germania by entities called JSC Palmary and Gazprom Export Business Services LLC.

He said German law calls for his ministry to give permission for acquisitions of critical infrastructure by any non-European Union investor, but it is unclear who is behind those companies. He also said the buyer ordered Gazprom Germania’s liquidation, which is not allowed before a purchase has been approved.

It was not immediately clear what was behind Gazprom’s move, which came amid tensions between Russia and Europe over natural gas deliveries.

Germany, which gets about 40 percent of its gas from Russia, is moving to reduce its dependence on Russian gas but has resisted calls for an immediate embargo on Russian energy imports.