* Loss driven by lower Russian gas flows, impairments
* Uniper bailed out by the state amid energy crisis
* Company says it cannot give 2022 outlook for now
* Shares down 8%
(Recasts with CEO comments)
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Uniper, the
highest-profile corporate victim of Europe's energy crisis so
far, reported a 12.3 billion euro loss ($12.5 billion) due to
Russian gas supply cuts, saying it had become a "pawn" in the
energy standoff between the European Union and Moscow.
Germany's largest importer of Russian gas needed a 15
billion euro government bailout last month after Russia
drastically cut flows, forcing Uniper to buy gas
elsewhere at much higher prices.
The bailout has laid bare Germany's reliance on Russian gas,
which accounted for around 55% of the total last year, and the
costs of switching to alternative sources to keep on powering
Europe's top economy.
More than half of Uniper's first-half loss was caused by
reduced supplies from Russia, which has been locked in an
economic conflict with the West since its invasion of Ukraine.
"For globally active foreign oil and gas companies, such
losses might be bearable. In Germany, on the other hand, there
is not a single energy company that such a development would not
bring to its knees," Chief Executive Klaus-Dieter Maubach said.
"We at Uniper have de facto become a pawn in this conflict."
Maubach said Uniper was examining legal steps against main
supplier Gazprom, which has declared force majeure
regarding deliveries, an argument Uniper disputes.
Underscoring Uniper's commitment to deliver agreed volumes
of gas, Maubach warned Europe's energy crunch was far from
easing and gas supply in coming winter remains extremely
Uniper expects a mid to high single digit billion euro
operating loss this year and said 2023 would mark a transition
year before the group could exit the "loss zone" in 2024.
Apart from equity provided by the state and bigger loans
from state-lender KfW, help will also come via a gas
levy that lets utilities pass on most of the costs of more
expensive gas to customers from October, Uniper said.
Uniper, whose shares fell 8%, said this would significantly
reduce losses from the fourth quarter onwards.
Moscow has cut flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just
a fifth, blaming faulty or delayed equipment.
Berlin has said this is a pretext and Maubach said Uniper
shared the government's view that Gazprom could increase
supplies via the pipeline if it wanted to or use alternative
The first-half loss also includes 2.7 billion euros in
impairments related to the cancelled Nord Stream 2 pipeline,
which Uniper backed financially, in addition to write-downs on
its Russian business Unipro, which it still plans to
"The most urgent task for Uniper is to find alternative gas
supplies," Third Bridge analyst Allegra Dawes said, adding she
expected deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via a planned
Uniper-led terminal in Wilhelmshaven by the first half of 2023.
Maubach said the group was in contact with Canada and other
suppliers about additional LNG deliveries.
As part of the state bailout, Germany will take a 30% stake
in Uniper and has pledged 9 billion euros of credit lines via
KfW, 5 billion euros of which have been drawn.
The bailout also includes an undefined government backstop
should losses from gas purchases to offset lower Russian
deliveries exceed 7 billion euros, which Maubach said would not
dilute shareholders further.
"This will prevent a chain reaction that would do much more
damage. Our top priority now is to swiftly implement the
stabilisation package," he said.
Uniper, which expects the package to be approved at an
extraordinary general meeting in the autumn, said it needed to
wait for a clear signal from the European Commission on how it
thinks about the bailout first.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Tom Kaeckenhoff and Vera
Eckert; Editing by Uttaresh.V, Edmund Blair and Tomasz Janowski)