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(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s cabinet has passed a law that enables the government to take a stake in the group formerly known as Gazprom Germania GmbH.
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Gazprom Germania, once an arm of the Russian gas giant, has been run by Germany’s regulator since April but the latest move strengthens the government’s hand as it wrestles with an energy crisis caused by Moscow’s squeeze on gas flows. It’s part of a set of measures adopted Tuesday to help stabilize the fragile energy industry.
The law allows the government to take a stake in companies under trusteeship against the will of its owner, two government officials said. Under the current rules, a capital injection for a company under trusteeship requires the consent of the owner. With the new rules, the economy ministry can order a capital injection to stabilize the company and guarantee energy security, a government official said.
A government spokesperson wasn’t available to comment.
Earlier this year, Economy Minister Robert Habeck had pushed for a full nationalization of Gazprom Germania but was overruled by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to people familiar with the discussion. Scholz was concerned that such a move could anger Russian President Vladimir Putin and lead to an escalation in the standoff over gas imports, the people said. Since then, Russia has squeezed gas flows to Germany, threatening industry and raising the specter of rationing.
Read: Germany to Lend Up to $10.4 Billion to Save Ex-Gazprom Unit
The group’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.
Germany would pay compensation to the current owner for taking a stake, the official said, raising the prospect that the country may need to pay Moscow if it seizes ownership of the group, now known as Securing Energy for Europe GmbH, or SEFE.
Gazprom has said it no longer owns its German unit and all its subsidiaries. The Russian company didn’t disclose the new ownership, but regulatory filings showed the transaction involved Joint Stock Company Palmary. It isn’t clear who the ultimate beneficial owner of Palmary is.
Back in April,, Germany took the group -- owner of energy supplier Wingas GmbH, a gas storage firm and a London-based trading arm -- under trusteeship of the energy regulator. The Federal Network Agency has currently the power to manage SEFE to ensure security of supply but has so far refrained from nationalizing it.
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