Austria bails out country’s main energy supplier with €2 bln

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Austria on Wednesday announced it would bail out the country’s main energy supplier with a €2 billion ($2 billion) loan as prices have jumped across Europe over the war in Ukraine.

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Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the loan to Wien Energie was an “extraordinary rescue measure” to ensure its two million customers -- mainly Vienna households -- continue to receive electricity.

It will run until next April.

Wien Energie asked for a bailout this weekend after suffering financial trouble amid soaring energy prices and speculation the company mismanaged their funds.

Nehammer said Wien Energie, which is owned by Vienna, would have to answer questions as to how they got into trouble.

“The goal was to help people quickly... It has now been agreed that all of these questions, which are rightly raised, must be answered promptly by Vienna (and) the energy supplier,” he told reporters.

The company -- largely dependent on Russian gas -- said earlier this week that it had been hit by the “price explosion” which it has not yet passed on to customers, assuring it remained solvent.

European electricity prices have soared, threatening a bitter winter as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Russian cuts of gas deliveries to Europe inflict economic pain across the continent.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Monday the bloc was preparing to take “emergency” action to reform the electricity market and bring prices under control.

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