Germany and Poland have progressed plans to take over companies that were owned by Russia’s state controlled gas giant Gazprom before the start of the war against Ukraine this year which has also led to the gas supply crisis in Europe.

Germany’s Economy Ministry said in a statement that the government has become a sole shareholder in gas importer Securing Energy for Europe (Sefe), which previously operated under the name of Gazprom Germania.

Meanwhile, Poland will assume control over Gazprom’s 48% shareholding in Europol Gaz which owns the Polish segment of the Yamal gas pipeline, running from Russia across Belarus to Poland and then to Germany.

The moves come ahead of a European ban on Russian oil imports and a G7 price cap on Russian crude shipments around the world.

According to the German Economy Ministry, the refusal from Gazprom to continue to deliver gas to Sefe under existing contracts have pushed the company to the verge of bankruptcy, which in turn could “jeopardize the security of supply in Germany”.

“In order to avert this danger and permit Sefe to maintain its business, the change of ownership has been completed and the company stabilised”, the ministry said in a statement.

In April, German authorities ordered the country’s Federal Network Agency Bundesnetagentur to take Gazprom Germania into trusteeship after the Russian company sold its control in the German subsidiary to a previously unknown limited liability company in Russia, without seeking prior approval from German authorities.

German authorities saw the Russian move as a step toward liquidation of a key gas player in Germany, potentially undermining long-term gas supply contracts ahead of the next winter season.

The ministry said in a clarification note that just last year Gazprom Germania and a network of its European subsidiaries — Wingas, WIEH and Gazprom Marketing & Trading Retail — were the largest suppliers of Russian gas to a range of key customers in Germany.

Gazprom Germania’s network also included the Astora subsidiary that operates gas storage facilities, accounting for one fifth of the country’s available storage capacity.

The ministry said that the change of ownership at Sefe was precipitated by the “reluctance” of business partners to continue business relationships with the company because of the unclear situation regarding ownership.

A financial restructuring of Sefe on a scale that would put the German government in control would require €7.7 billion ($7.98 billion) in new equity, the ministry has stated.

The government also announced, in addition to the nationalisation initiative, that it would boost the amount of a previously issued loan from state-owned bank KfW to Sefe to €13.8 billion from €11.8 billion.

Gazprom has not commented on the German government’s decision, although the company said in the summer that it did not consider itself a shareholder in Gazprom Germania or its European subsidiaries, and demanded that German authorities stop using its name in these companies.

Poland’s decision

Germany’s move has been followed by Poland’s decision to replace Gazprom as a shareholder in Europol Gaz.

“The compulsory administration will ensure the security of the critical infrastructure used for gas transit”, Polish Development Minister Waldemar Buda said in a statement as reported by Reuters.

“We are doing all we can to counteract Russia’s aggression and eliminate Russian capital and influence in the country. Because expropriation is not possible under the Polish constitution, we decided to put in place compulsory management,” Buda said.

Poland’s largest oil and gas producer PGNiG has another 48% shareholding in Europol Gaz while privately held venture Gas-Trading holds the remaining 2% interest.

The Polish segment of the Yamal Pipeline, measuring almost 700-kilometre, is operated by the country’s state-owned gas transmission operator Gaz-System under a contract with Europol Gaz.

Poland has also issued sanctions against Gazprom, prohibiting the gas giant from shipping Russian gas via the system.

However, the pipeline is being used in reverse mode to import natural gas from Germany into Poland, with its importance as an alternative supply route to the country set to grow with Germany’s earlier announcement of plans to build five liquefied natural gas import terminals.

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