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Bailed-out gas trader Uniper flags recovery after ‘watershed year’

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Uniper is pictured at the company’s headquarters in Duesseldorf, Germany, September 21, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay   GAZP -0.25% Add to/Remove from Watchlist Add to Watchlist Add Position

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By Christoph Steitz, Tom Käckenhoff and Vera Eckert

FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) -Germany’s Uniper expects profits to recover this year from a 19.1 billion euro ($20.3 billion) record net loss in 2022, although the impact of the Ukraine war on gas prices that determine its procurement costs could linger into 2024, it said.

Uniper is the biggest corporate casualty of Europe’s energy crisis so far and was last year nationalised to prevent it collapsing from the cost of replacing Russian gas volumes when former main supplier Gazprom (MCX:GAZP) stopped delivering.

The company has received 19.5 billion euros in government funds – 13.5 billion in equity and 6 billion euros in loans from state lender KfW – and outgoing finance chief Tiina Tuomela said it was unclear whether more was needed.

“That fully depends on the gas price development, so if needed, we’ll get the equity,” Tuomela said, adding that if prices remained lower, Uniper could avoid tapping the 19.5 billion euros in government equity still available.

Dutch gas for delivery in a month’s time has fallen to around 52 euros per megawatt hour compared with record levels of more than 340 euros at the height of the supply crisis last August.

But even now, it is two-and-a-half times the level of just under 20 euros two years ago, and Tuomela said Russia-related gas losses could continue until the end of 2024.

Initially, Uniper’s bailout costs, including equity and loans, were estimated to be more than 50 billion euros.

The company said it expects both its adjusted operating profit (EBIT) and adjusted net profit to improve in 2023. In 2022, it posted an adjusted EBIT loss of 10.9 billion euros ($11.6 billion) and an adjusted net loss of 7.4 billion euros.

On an unadjusted basis its net loss was 19.1 billion euros.

“2022 was a real watershed year for Uniper,” Tuomela, who will be replaced in March by former managing director of the federal finance agency Jutta Doenges, told analysts after presenting full-year results.

Lower energy prices also reduced Uniper’s derivative positions, which are marked at the end of each quarter, by nearly two-thirds to 76 billion euros at the end of December compared to end-September.

Outgoing Uniper Chief Executive Klaus-Dieter Maubach expects the impact of lower gas prices to give the group’s future leadership more scope to accelerate the group’s turnaround.

“The task of the new management board and supervisory board will be to continue to develop Uniper and make it profitable again,” Maubach said.

($1 = 0.9406 euros)

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