Dusseldorf, Frankfurt The Düsseldorf-based energy group Uniper is getting a new Chief Operating Officer (COO). From March 1st, Holger Kreetz will take over the position from the previous COO David Bryson. Kreetz previously headed the asset management department at Uniper.
The new appointment is one step in a series of changes on the board of the troubled company. At the end of January, Jutta Dönges, the former managing director of the federal finance agency, had already become chief financial officer, replacing the previous chief financial officer Tiina Tuomela.
While Uniper has found an internal solution for the operational board, the company is probably also looking externally for suitable candidates for the chairmanship.
Several people familiar with the matter told the Handelsblatt that Uniper hired the headhunting company Egon Zehnder to look for a new CEO.
Experts bring possible CEO names into play
According to experts, there are various candidates who could in principle be considered for the top position at Uniper. Mentioned was Erik von Scholz, who currently heads the Luxembourg energy supplier Enovos and was a manager at the French energy supplier Engie until 2015. Another possible candidate is Jochen Weise, a former manager at Uniper’s predecessor company Ruhrgas.
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Anke Langner is also a potential candidate, managing director at Iqony, a sub-group of the electricity producer Steag. Frank May, managing director of the wind power company Alterric, the former RWE boss Rolf Schmitz, the former RWE manager Bernhard Günther and the former EnBW boss Frank Mastiaux could also be candidates.
The new Uniper management faces a huge task. As the largest German gas importer, Uniper has in the past purchased large quantities of cheap natural gas from Russia and sold it on to hundreds of German municipal utilities and industrial companies at a slightly higher price.
This business model collapsed when the Russian energy company Gazprom stopped deliveries to Germany in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
State-owned company Uniper
The German state holds the shares in the energy group Uniper.
The German state had to save Uniper to prevent the group from collapsing and the associated gas supply problems for public utilities throughout Germany.
Now the state holds 99 percent of the shares in the energy company, whose most important source of income is still missing – and together with the new management has to find a suitable way into the future.
Anxious about realignment of the group
Various drafts are currently making the rounds for the future design of Uniper. In an internal paper that is available to the Handelsblatt, there is even talk of a possible break-up. The paper is based on talks that the State Secretaries of Economic Affairs Patrick Graichen and Udo Philipp held in December together with the CEOs of Uniper and the gas importer Sefe (formerly Gazprom Germania), which was also acquired, and consultants from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The paper contains several proposals for action. One is that the federal government – possibly with the help of Uniper and Sefe – should negotiate long-term supply contracts for the import of liquefied natural gas with other countries. Another proposal considers the establishment of a national hydrogen player, which could be composed of components from Uniper and Sefe.
The current German gas network, which could be used for hydrogen transport in the future, would be interesting for such a hydrogen player, provided that political regulations make this possible.
Parts of the German gas network have so far belonged to Wiga GmbH, which in turn belongs to Sefe and the Kassel-based energy company Wintershall. Wiga could therefore play a role in a possible development of a national hydrogen champion.
It is also conceivable that the healthy components of Uniper and Sefe, such as power plants, will be split off and put back on the market.
From corporate circles, however, it can be heard that these proposals for action are purely intellectual games. They are currently not being seriously discussed within the company.
One thing is clear: the future strategy for Uniper depends to a large extent on political decisions that still have to be made in the coming weeks and months.
The new COO Kreetz will have to help implement the new strategy. Employee representatives welcomed his appointment. Uniper works council chief Harald Seegatz told Handelsblatt: “I am very pleased that Holger Kreetz, an internal candidate, will take on the role of COO on Uniper’s board.” years significantly influenced.
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