July 19, 2018 / 11:32 AM / 5 months ago

Fortum to seek fresh start with Uniper: CEO

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish utility Fortum (FORTUM.HE) is seeking a fresh start with Germany’s Uniper (UN01.DE), it’s CEO said on Thursday, following an extraordinary acquisition process that included a campaign against the deal and calls for an investigation into Uniper.

FILE PHOTO: Finnish energy company Fortum sign is seen at their headquarters in Espoo, Finland July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Fortum last month closed a 3.8 billion euro ($4.4 billion) deal to buy around 47 percent of Uniper, which opposed the transaction from the start.

“This process was clearly not without challenges... but to be clear, these challenges have by no means altered our long-term view towards Uniper,” CEO Pekka Lundmark told a news conference.

“We are actively working to reset our relationship with Uniper... the process clearly won’t be finalised overnight, but it is our objective to make good progress in a timely manner.”

As an initial measure, he nominated his CFO Markus Rauramo to join the supervisory board of Uniper.

In April, Fortum accused Uniper management of actively seeking to block the transaction.

Uniper, which has denied any wrongdoing, has argued that the combination makes no strategic sense, and feared that Fortum might want to break up the group.

Last month, Uniper CEO Klaus Schaefer said he will try to maintain the company’s independence, while also creating a constructive working relationship with Fortum.

However, a fund backed by activist investor Elliott filed a motion in May to investigate possible breaches of duty and violations of the law by Uniper management.

Lundmark declined to comment on the motion, saying it will discuss the matter privately with Uniper.

He also said he was happy with Fortum’s current stake in Uniper when asked whether Fortum would seek to circumvent the Russian authorities’ limitation of up to 50 percent ownership.

“There is a restriction that we have to live with. Anything other than that, we will not speculate on.”

Uniper and Fortum both operate several power plants in Russia.

Fortum also said that its second-quarter operating profit rose 40 percent from a year ago to 153 million euros, slightly below market forecasts.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; editing by Jason Neely and Kirsten Donovan

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