By Christoph Steitz
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German utility STEAG has secured at least 100 million euros ($113 million) in extra funding to shield it from skyrocketing prices, it told Reuters, as volatile energy markets force some companies to shore up their finances.
STEAG, Germany’s fifth-largest utility, said it needed funding in the “low triple digit million euro range” due to price volatility, which it has secured from partners.
Soaring power prices have rattled energy companies across Europe with Germany’s Uniper securing credit lines of up to $11 billion from parent Fortum and state bank KfW. RWE, another of the country’s largest utilities, last week said it too had made provisions.
In Britain, meantime, dozens of small suppliers have gone bust as a result of the price spikes.
Energy companies typically hedge their sales of gas and electricity to cover price differences across different markets. The surge in European prices has left some companies exposed, requiring them to deposit extra funds to cover margin payments tied to those hedges, known in market parlance as a margin call.
“STEAG is able to actively participate in market activities, also in the current market situation. We found suitable partners for handling our forward transactions at an early stage,” it said in a statement, without elaborating.
STEAG, which made 368 million euros in core profit on 2 billion euros of sales in 2020, said in November it had arranged follow-up financing with its creditors until the end of 2023.
Unlike Uniper, STEAG said it does not plan to turn to KfW for help.
The scramble for credit underlines the growing impact of hugely volatile power and gas costs on companies and end-customers across Europe, where several governments have launched, or are considering, emergency funding schemes to help the less well-off.
The Dutch wholesale day-ahead contract has nearly quadrupled over the past 12 months. And at 244 euros per megawatt hour, German day-ahead wholesale power baseload is up more than fivefold during the same period.
Margin calls arise when the gap between ‘spot’ power prices and the level at which utilities have sold their output on a forward basis becomes too wide, forcing them to post the margin as proof that they can deliver in the unlikely event of default.
On delivery, those contracts are usually unwound and the money flows back to the utilities, which is business as usual as long as price swings are not too dramatic.
However, recent volatility has changed this dynamic, leading utilities to seek more financial headroom.
Co-owned by municipal utilities, STEAG is based in Essen, which is also home to larger groups E.ON and RWE as well as conglomerate Thyssenkrupp.
STEAG is undergoing a strategic turnaround under which it will expand its focus on renewables, energy efficiency and so-called bridge technologies, most notably gas, while phasing out most of its coal-fired power plants in 2022.
($1 = 0.8819 euros)
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff, Vera Eckert and Isla Binnie; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Alexander Smith)