Will German steel giant fire up Russian natural gas again Stainless Espresso 1200x630 1

27 May 2024 – The takeover of parts of thyssenkrupp Steel Europe by the Czech energy group EPH was only possible last week thanks to the use of the second voting right of the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of thyssenkrupp AG. Can Germany even afford to exert such influence on a supposedly systemically important steel company?

Will the German steel giant soon be firing Russian natural gas again?

Last week, the Supervisory Board of Thyssenkrupp AG decided in favour of Czech investor Daniel Křetínský taking a stake in the ailing steel division with the necessary assistance of the second voting rights of the Chairman of the Supervisory Board.

Czech investor largest single importer of Russian natural gas

The ‘saviour’ investor who is supposed to save thyssenkrupp Steel Europe (tkSE) is primarily active in the energy transport and energy production sector and was the largest single importer of Russian natural gas in Europe before the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war. This could therefore supply tkSE with cheap natural gas of dubious origin again in future via the pipeline network belonging to the EPH Group, as EPH continues to purchase natural gas from Russia.

Will subsidised DR plant be fuelled with Russian natural gas?

Natural gas that tkSE urgently needs for its supposedly green direct reduction plant financed with billions in German subsidies, as there will be no clean hydrogen available in sufficient quantities in the EU for the foreseeable future. And the EPH Group has already earned a dubious reputation for collecting European subsidies – especially with regard to the Group’s own coal-fired power plants and lignite mining in eastern Germany.

And since tkSE has failed for decades to really do anything about CO2 savings and all plans have been announced with green hydrogen, but have always been able to burn natural gas, the steel group’s interest is more likely to lie in cheap energy than in environmental protection.

Overall, the EPH Group is not doing particularly well with regard to the green climate targets of the EU and Germany and, according to analysts, has not defined any clear and comprehensible targets for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, especially not for investments made after 2020.

Relations with Moscow?

Daniel Křetínský, the main shareholder of EPH, has also been rumoured to have close relations with Moscow for years, without which it would probably hardly have been possible to become the largest single importer of Russian gas to Europe.

Can Germany allow this kind of influence?

Can Germany, in particular the green Federal Ministry of Economics under Robert Habeck, which has, for example, placed the German subsidiaries of the Russian Gazprom Group under state control, be willing to allow a major investor to exert influence on a supposedly systemically relevant steel manufacturer that has no interest in the EU’s climate protection goals and has made its money primarily from the sale of Russian natural gas?

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