May 26, 2019 / 5:24 PM / 3 months ago

Uniper executives to step down as Fortum conflict drags on

FILE PHOTO: A logo of German energy utility company Uniper SE is pictured in Duesseldorf, Germany, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Uniper’s chief operating officer and chief commercial officer will step down by the end of November, the German utility said on Sunday only days after a long-standing conflict with top shareholder Fortum flared up again.

Uniper said COO Eckhardt Ruemmler and CCO Keith Martin had asked the group’s chairman to terminate their contracts at the end of Nov. 30, 2019.

Fortum and Uniper have been at loggerheads since the Finnish state-owned utility tried to take over the German group in 2017, a deal that Uniper’s management fiercely opposed due to concerns it might get broken up.

Last week, Fortum proposed to delay a shareholder vote to endorse Uniper’s management for the past two years to clarify their role in the takeover process.

“I deeply regret the decisions of Eckhardt Ruemmler and Keith Martin. Nevertheless, I can understand them in view of the unmistakably expressed mistrust of our major shareholder Fortum towards the entire Uniper Management Board,” Uniper Supervisory Board Chairman Bernhard Reutersberg said.

Fortum, which has a 49.99% stake in Uniper, has claimed that Uniper’s board actively tried to block its planned takeover, which Uniper denies.

“Fortum has once again put Uniper in a difficult situation. I call on Fortum to finally start discussing constructively a way forward which is feasible for both companies,” Reutersberg said.

Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman

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