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Germany offers state guarantees to lure buyers for Gazprom unit

© BloombergUK Gazprom
India's GAIL is considering more LNG imports from Gazprom's Singapore trading arm.

Germany is seeking a buyer for Gazprom PJSC’s unit in the country by offering state-backed loans for private companies willing to take parts of or the entire business, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The German government is in talks with private buyers interested in Gazprom Germania GmbH or some of its units, which include energy supplier Wingas GmbH and gas storage firm Astora, said the person, who asked not to be named as the talks are private. Buyers would be offered guarantees and loans through the state-owned development lender KfW IPEX-Bank, the person said.

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. Germany hasn’t ruled out nationalizing parts of Gazprom Germania as a last resort, though Berlin wants to find another solution, the person said. Meanwhile, the U.K. could end up temporarily running a retail arm of Gazprom that supplies a fifth of Britain’s commercial gas.

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.

Germany has made mixed progress in its efforts to throw a lifeline to Gazprom Germania, but the government wants to avoid nationalisation or even expropriation of the company’s assets, the person said. Still, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration isn’t ruling out taking parts of the company over as a last resort to ensure security of supply, the person said.

Gazprom Germania’s Astora unit operates Germany’s biggest gas storage facility in the northern town of Rehden in the state of Lower Saxony.

Officials are currently still studying the impact the possible failure of the German units of Gazprom would have on the economy, and no final decision has been made. Beate Baron, a spokeswoman for the economy ministry, declined to comment on Monday.

Finding a buyer for parts of Gazprom Germania may be hard as all the companies in the group are intertwined. For instance, it’s the trading arm in London, Gazprom Marketing & Trading, that holds the hedges — or the energy previously purchased — for both Wingas and Gazprom Energy. Without those, customers could be left to buy gas and electricity at current high rates.

Germany would also consider nationalizing Rosneft’s business in the country if no private sector solution is found, the person said. Rosneft Deutschland accounts for roughly a quarter of the German oil refining business.

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