Buying Uniper was 'a mistake', Finnish finance minister says

HELSINKI, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Buying Germany's top gas importer Uniper (UN01.DE) was "a mistake", Finland's finance minister Annika Saarikko told Reuters, after its nationalisation left both countries with huge losses.

Germany agreed to step in to nationalise Uniper, its largest importer of Russian gas, amid a deepening energy crisis that had brought Uniper to its knees. Part of that deal was to buy out Fortum (FORTUM.HE), majority-owned by Finland's government.

Fortum had invested some 7 billion euros ($6.72 billion) in the German company and said it made a loss of nearly 6 billion euros from the exit, one of the biggest business failures in Finnish history.

"Uniper's business and the fossil energy, it wasn't a good idea for Fortum to buy that business a few years ago," Saarikko said in an interview recorded for Reuters IMPACT, a climate-focused conference taking place in London on Oct. 3-4.

"Of course we can say now that it was a mistake," she added.

Between 2013 and 2015, Fortum had gained some 9 billion euros from selling off its Nordic power transmission business and in 2017, against its previous strategy of investing in emission-free Nordic energy, it decided to invest the money into Uniper, acquiring first a 47% stake from German E.ON.

Subsequently, Fortum raised its stake to around 80% of the German company.

"Is it wise now to look back and search for the guilty?" Saarikko said, adding "now we have to look forward".

In order to solve the energy crisis, the European Union needs to change the pricing structure in the energy markets, Saarikko said.

"To me it is clear that we must decouple the price of natural gas and other energy prices so that the gas price does not drive electricity prices. That's the main problem to solve," she said.

The European Commission has proposed emergency energy measures, including bloc-wide windfall profit levies on energy firms, which EU countries are expected to decide on at a meeting of EU ministers on Sept.30.

Finland is open to the Commission's proposals but needs to hear more about them, Saarikko said.

($1 = 1.0422 euros)

Reporting by Anne Kauranen;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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