Fortum Wins Russian Approval to Buy $4.5 Billion Stake in Uniper

(Bloomberg) -- A powerful Russian commission on Saturday approved Finnish utility Fortum Oyj’s $4.5 billion bid for a minority stake in German rival Uniper SE, a key step to completing the merger, the company said.

Action by the Russian commission of foreign investments in strategic assets would allow the purchase of a 47 percent stake in Uniper by Fortum, which is majority owned by the state.

“This represents an important step on our path to becoming the major shareholder in Uniper,” Pekka Lundmark, president and chief executive officer of Fortum, said in a statement.

Fortum said on Thursday the deal would be completed shortly after approval from both Russian and European regulators, which it expected by the end of this quarter. The utility would be an “active, long-term partner to Uniper,” Lundmark said on a conference call.

The Finnish company required Russian approval because Uniper controls Unipro PJSC, a Russian power generator. The commission limited Fortum to holding as much as 50 percent of Uniper because Fortum is controlled by the state.

Fortum has said repeatedly it’s happy holding a minority stake.

In a statement, Lundmark said some executives at the Dusseldorf, Germany-based company tried to block the deal. The success of the business depends on “constructive cooperation” with Uniper management, he said.

“We have come to understand that Uniper management has actively worked against the transaction in Russia, which is unfortunate in light of the need to cooperate between Fortum and Uniper in order to create value together for both our respective shareholders,” he said.

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