Company claims a direct approach in July was rejected

Finnish energy group Fortum’s bid to buy a 47 per cent stake in Uniper is the first step in a hostile takeover, Uniper has claimed.

Fortum made a direct approach to Uniper in July offering €19 a share for a controlling stake, which was rejected by the board, according to a company spokesman.

“Fortum approached us in July seeking to buy a controlling stake at €19 a share, but after thoroughly considering it, the board sorrowfully rejected the offer,” a Uniper spokesman told Utility Week.

Fortum had pledged to come back to Uniper directly with any renewed offers “but that didn’t happen,” the spokesman added.

“This is a hostile push from Fortum,” Uniper chief executive Klaus Schaefer told Reuters on Monday. Fortum has since offered Eon €22 a share, which would value the deal at €3.8 billion, “a significantly improved deal,” the spokesman said.

Uniper expects an agreement to be agreed but not concluded by the end of 2017 or end of the first quarter at the latest. If Fortum secures E.ON’s 47 per cent stake, German regulatory rules compell the buyer to make an offer to the remaining Uniper shareholders for a full takeover.

“If they saw Uniper as a strategic partner going foward there would have been dialogue but there has been no communication,” he said.

Germany’s RWE and EnBW and Czech energy group CEZ are the likeliest buyers as additional coal fleet would fit their portfolio better than Fortum which focusses on clean energy. If Fortum were to buy Uniper entirely, coal assets are likely to be sold although Fortum has two coal-fired power plants for top-up winter demand, industry sources said.