E.ON and Fortum meet more resistance over sale of Uniper

20 October 2017

Fortum’s plan to acquire Uniper from E.ON has raised concerns among Finnish policy makers as well as a new public attack from Uniper itself. Uniper was established in January 2016 to take control of E.ON’s fossil fuel assets when it decided to change direction and shift its main focus to renewables,
The Helsinki Times reports that Christopher Delbrück, the chief financial officer at Uniper, stated on 17 October that the company is not prepared to compromise its balance sheet and shoulder the costs arising from the mooted takeover by the Finnish state-owned energy utility. “The costs and balance sheet are exactly the kind of issues that have been discussed by the management of Uniper following the takeover bid by Fortum,” stated Delbrück. “Uniper has reported solid results, and that same stability applies to our business operations. Also our healthy balance sheet shows that Uniper is best-equipped to succeed as an independent company.”
Delbrück says he is concerned that the proposed share purchase will hurt the status and share value of Uniper. His comments could be interpreted as a response to speculation that Fortum is planning on breaking up Uniper after completing the takeover and divesting any assets deemed not to be key to its strategy, such as Uniper’s coal-fuelled power plants. Fortum is believed to be mainly interested in the hydro- and nuclear power assets of Uniper.
“Uniper would have to take steps back in its current operations under the ownership of Fortum,” says Delbrück.
Finnish policy makers have also criticised the takeover bid, as it seems to run counter to Fortum’s efforts to establish itself as a forerunner in clean energy.
Pekka Lundmark, the chief executive of Fortum, expressed his surprise at the hostile reaction of the management of Uniper. “Launching such a public attack against a deal made by its owner is certainly quite unusual and a bit confounding,” he said. Fortum launched its €8 billion takeover bid for Uniper in September after reaching a deal with E.ON over its shares in the company. Fortum has offered €22 per share to all Uniper shareholders and has signed an agreement with E.ON under which E.ON would tender its 46.7% shareholding in Uniper early in 2018.
However Uniper did not view the deal favourably. It noted that it had not invited Fortum to make an offer, and that a takeover bid by Fortum would ‘not be in line with its strategy’.

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