July 1, 2019 / 1:17 PM / 5 months ago

Fortum wants to resume talks with Uniper, not targeting break-up

FILE PHOTO: A logo of German energy utility company Uniper SE is pictured in the company's headquarter in Duesseldorf, Germany, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Fortum (FORTUM.HE), the state-controlled Finnish utility, wants to restart talks with the management of Germany’s Uniper (UN01.DE), in which it owns 49.9 percent after a hostile takeover, it said on Monday.

“We are in contact with the Supervisory Board of Uniper with a view to resuming such discussions as soon as possible,” Fortum said in a statement, adding that it is interested in the company as a whole.

The utility responded to a letter from the head of Uniper’s works council, seen by Reuters, in which labor representatives had demanded clarity about Fortum’s intentions with Uniper amid concerns that Fortum may want to break up the company.

“The continued obscurity around Fortum’s strategy is no longer acceptable”, Harald Seegatz had said in the works council letter.

Fortum and Uniper have been at loggerheads since the Finnish utility tried to acquire a majority in the German group in 2017, a deal that Uniper’s management opposed due to concerns it might get broken up.

Fortum - which cannot raise its stake in Uniper further due to a Russian water license which must not be owned by a foreign state-owned entity - has claimed that Uniper’s board actively tried to block its planned takeover. Uniper denies this.

Late in May, Uniper chairman Bernhard Reutersberg said that talks with Fortum to resolve their dispute were on hold after two of the German utility’s board members resigned.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki and Arno Schuetze; Editing by Douglas Busvine

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