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    Uniper's New Bosses Join at Tense Time

Summary

Relations with biggest shareholder Fortum, lobbying for Nord Stream 2 and managing the energy transition will be among the pressing items in Uniper's new executives' in-tray.

by: William Powell

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Uniper's New Bosses Join at Tense Time

Uniper's newly-appointed CEO Andreas Schierenbeck and CFO Sascha Bibert took up their positions June 3, at  a time of heightened corporate tension as relations with biggest shareholder Fortum hit a new low.

Among their priorities will be the appointment of new chief financial and commercial officers; and more broadly, managing the transition towards a low-carbon economy, with the closure of coal and lignite power generation capacity driven by the government.

The German utility is also financially backing Nord Stream 2, a project that is opposed by many east Europeans and the US government which is threatening sanctions. The pipeline has also fallen victim to the European Commission's amendments to the gas directive, which could limit the amount of gas it carries. Uniper will want to protect its €950mn ($1bn) financing.

CEO Klaus Schafer and CFO Christopher Delbruck, who had been with the company long before its split from EON, had resigned some months ago, in order to pave the way for smoother negotiations with the Finnish company, as they had bitterly opposed the entry of Fortum into Uniper's equity. Fortum owns 49.99%.

But two weeks ago at Uniper's AGM (pictured above) the Finnish company refused to approve the accounts for the past few years, citing head office's behaviour in managing its Russian power generation assets. The Fortum statement triggered the departure – announced May 26 but postponed until November – of chief operating officer Eckhardt Rummler and chief commercial officer Keith Martin.

The concern relates to the actions of the Uniper management leading up to a water testing and treatment facility of Unipro, the Russian power generating arm of Uniper, being entered into the list of strategic activities in Russia which meant it had to own at least 50% of the Surgutskaya plant – a small part of the whole as Fortum said.

Uniper said June 3 that: "When choosing their [Schafer's and Delbruck's] successors, the Uniper supervisory board was particularly concerned with getting two highly qualified and internationally experienced managers on board to lead Uniper into a successful future with a steady hand, especially in these challenging times."

Schierenbeck said he was "looking forward to my new responsibilities and have spent the last several weeks learning the ropes. My goal is to gain a comprehensive picture of Uniper, its culture, and its employees as quickly as possible. If there is one thing I have learned from working in the industrial sector for many years, it is that security of supply and affordable energy are decisive competitive factors for any industry. Here I see Uniper in a very important role."

Bibert said he was "looking forward to being part of the management board team at Uniper and to applying my expertise at a company that has gained a great reputation in a very short period of time, both in the energy sector and in the capital market. I want to continue pursuing this success story together with the entire Uniper team.”