utility divides

RWE Expects Go-Ahead for Split

Martin Schroeder RWE
For RWE, the times are changing.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    German power group RWE looks set to receive supervisory board backing for its plan to split itself to help cover the cost of nuclear plant closures.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • RWE’s municipal owners who hold 25 percent of its stock have criticized the planned move to divide the country’s second-largest power group in two.
    • The owners are worried that the split will dilute their shareholdings and lessen their control of the group. But they don’t have the power to thwart the move, and none of them will vote against it on Friday.
    • RWE’s move comes in response to Germany’s energy transition, in which nuclear power will be phased out by 2022 as the company shifts to renewables.
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  • Audio

    Audio

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It was never going to be the most pleasant of meetings and Peter Terium, the chief executive of power group RWE, opted to let his deputy Rolf Martin Schmitz represent him.

On Tuesday the representatives of the most important municipal shareholders, which together hold a quarter of RWE’s capital, visited the company’s headquarters in the western city of Essen to hear more about its planned reorganization.

The discussion between Mr. Schmitz and the supervisory board members, mayors and district authority chiefs was heated, people at the meeting reported.

But despite all their criticism, the municipal shareholders won’t block the planned split, announced last week when Germany’s second-largest utility said it would pool its power and gas grids, retail unit and renewable activities into a new entity.

Under the government’s Energiewende, or energy transition program, Germany in 2011 announced plans to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 and draw at least 80 percent of energy from renewables by 2050. For RWE and other utilities, this means a huge fall in the value of their traditional power generation holdings as the government supports renewables with subsidies.

All the country’s utilities are hurriedly restructuring in order to limit their losses as the government seeks to force them to meet the costs of unwinding and disposing of traditional plants.

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