Uniper talks to German government, Gazprom about rouble payment scheme

The logo of Uniper SE is seen in its booth at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba
The logo of Uniper SE is seen in its booth at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
  • No binding assessment yet in payment talks with Gazprom
  • Net debt increases more than six-fold to 1.98 bln eur
  • Shares down 3.6%

FRANKFURT, May 3 (Reuters) - Germany's Uniper (UN01.DE) remains in talks with Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and the German government over how to implement Moscow's demand to pay for Russian gas in roubles, which the European Commission said would breach sanctions.

Uniper, in presentation slides published along with final first-quarter results, cited "ongoing discussions with German government and Gazprom on potential implementation" of the decree, which has stoked fears that supplies may be disrupted.

The company, Germany's largest importer of Russian gas in which Finland's Fortum (FORTUM.HE) owns 78%, declined to comment on details of the talks, only saying that no binding assessment had been made as of now.

Uniper shares were down 3.6% at 1355 GMT after the company also unveiled a six-fold increase in its net debt to 1.98 billion euros ($2.09 billion), driven up by soaring energy prices that have caused a greater liquidity need to secure contracts.

Uniper's gas midstream business covers a portfolio of around 370 terawatt hours (TWh) of long-term gas supply contracts, of which about 200 TWh originate from Russia.

The European Commission late on Monday said complying with Russia's proposed scheme in full would breach existing EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but promised more detailed guidance on what companies can and cannot legally do. read more

Brussels suggested last month that buyers of Russian gas could make sanctions-compliant payments if they declare payments complete once they have been made in euros and before their conversion into roubles.

Russia's decree says, however, that a buyer's obligation would be deemed complete only after the foreign currency was converted to roubles.

Uniper last week said that it was planning to transfer payments in euros to a Russian account in the future and that the first payment under the mechanism was due at end-May, adding no final decision had been made. read more

($1 = 0.9480 euros)

Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Tom Kaeckenhoff; additional reporting by Vera Eckert; editing by Paul Carrel and Jason Neely

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