Wintershall Dea is looking for a way to sue Moscow after the Kremlin expropriated the German company’s business in Russia and wiped €2bn off its accounts.
The energy group last month became one of the last western oil and gas producers to announce its exit from Russia following the country’s assault on Ukraine, admitting it had lost control of its wells as well as the bank accounts it shared with its joint venture partner Gazprom.
Chief executive Mario Mehren said on Thursday that Wintershall — one of the main European investors in the suspended Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany — was now investigating “legal claims we might have against the Russian state, or others”.
He added that the company “will try everything that will be possible . . . and will execute it without making big announcements”.
Wintershall, which is majority owned by BASF, revealed on Thursday that it had swung to a net loss of €4.8bn in 2022 despite a year of unprecedentedly high gas prices because of a non-cash impairment of €7bn related to the loss of its Russian business.
Mehren was nevertheless confident that the company remained “strong and stable”, and spoke about plans to expand its business in Mexico, Norway and north Africa.
Chief financial officer Paul Smith said Wintershall “had hoped, at the end of the war and once restrictions had been lifted”, that the cash made from its continued operations in Russia would be “dividended back” to shareholders, but that this was “no longer the case”.
Mehren said Wintershall also hoped to claw back some of its losses in Russia under the German government’s federal investment guarantee, which some analysts have estimated could be worth €2bn to €2.5bn.
The chief executive, who days before the invasion of Ukraine had still been advocating for closer ties with Russia, declined to comment on whether Wintershall might try to sell its Russian business to the country’s government or Gazprom.
“At this point in time, we are not disclosing details on our plans of how exactly we will realise our exit from Russia,” he said.
The company, which human rights groups have claimed has supplied Gazprom with products that can be used to make fuel for Russian military jets, said it aimed to complete its exit this year.
However, Mehren cautioned that “how long this is going to take in the end will also not only depend on us, it will also depend on others”.