Uniper has not received U.S. sanctions threats over Nord Stream 2: CEO

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German utility Uniper, part of the group of western financiers supporting the Russia-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, said it had not received any threats of sanctions from the United States targeting supporters of the project.

FILE PHOTO: Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of German energy utility company Uniper SE, poses before a news conference in Duesseldorf, Germany, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

Uniper is one of the financial backers of the $11 billion pipeline project, which has become a focal point of Russia’s confrontation with the West.

The pipeline, led by Russia’s Gazprom, along with Austria’s OMV, Wintershall DEA, Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Engie would double the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline’s capacity.

U.S. sources told Reuters on Tuesday that the U.S. State Department had informed European companies helping to build the pipeline they were at risk of sanctions under punitive measures prepared by the outgoing Trump administration.

“There are no threats in my postal in-tray, which I check regularly,” Uniper Chief Executive Andreas Schierenbeck said in an interview with Reuters.

There were no sanctions against the finance partners, he said.

Washington has said Europe is undermining its energy security by doubling the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline’s capacity and will rely too much on Russia for gas. Western stakeholders say the pipeline is needed to meet future demand in the region.

The Nord Stream 2 consortium last month completed laying pipes in German waters and is due to start work on the remaining Danish stretch within days.

Schierenbeck said there were hopes that the incoming Biden administration in the United States would be prepared to listen to the European arguments.

Uniper in a recent earnings call gave a figure of 700 million euros ($850.57 million) of loan exposure on its Nord Stream 2 involvement, excluding accrued interest.

Schierenbeck also said Germany needed to bring in sea-borne liquefied natural gas as part of the country’s efforts to ditch coal and nuclear energy because European gas resources are dwindling.

Uniper was flexible, the CEO said, having secured up to 1.5 billion cubic metres of annual drawing rights on the new Trans Adriatic Pipeline pipeline bringing Azeri gas to Europe.

($1 = 0.8230 euros)

Reporting by Vera Eckert, Christoph Steitz, Tom Kaeckenhoff; editing by Kirsti Knolle, Maria Sheahan and Jane Merriman