It is commendable that Axpo overcame the crisis without drawing on the federal government’s emergency loan of four billion francs. However, there was also a fair amount of luck involved. Just a few days after Axpo had to go under the state rescue package, the turbulence on the international energy markets has subsided. This immediately defused the company’s financial situation.
Paradoxically, this same turbulence has also enabled Axpo to do brilliant business, so that the largest Swiss energy company is financially very successful. Axpo is therefore voluntarily waiving the state guarantees and is now completely on its own two feet again.
Get through the crisis flawlessly?
So everything went well? Not really. The question still arises today as to why the liquid assets in Axpo’s coffers became so tight that the federal government almost had to step in financially. Axpo has always justified its predicament with the uniqueness of the situation at the time. It is undisputed that the energy crisis was an extraordinary event for the electricity companies. The group also had this reading confirmed by external experts. Their conclusion: According to Axpo, no mistakes were made. However, these reports are not publicly available.
Nevertheless, in the wake of the energy crisis, Axpo has adjusted its capital management: in the short and long term. It was obvious that the previous practice with liquid assets in the event of a major storm was inadequate and that, to put it mildly, there was a need for adjustment. This is also reflected in the fact that Axpo has recently done everything it can to increase the liquid assets in its cash register.
The question of the cantons
Other energy companies also had their difficulties; Its competitor Alpiq threatened to run out of money even before the actual energy crisis began. It was because of them that the state rescue package for electricity companies was set up. Nevertheless, Alpiq managed to overcome the subsequent, even more turbulent phase without government help.
Ultimately, the Axpo case ended lightly. Nevertheless, politicians and supervisory authorities cannot simply move on to the agenda. Because one question in connection with the state emergency loan remains unsatisfactorily answered: Why haven’t the owners of Axpo, the cantons, been able to raise the necessary money? And ultimately, the same questions arise as with the collapse of CS: How can systemically important companies – and Axpo is one of them in the energy sector – be better prepared when extraordinary turbulence arises? It is only a matter of time before such tremors occur again.
Open the people box. Close the people box
Matthias Heim studied economic history. He has been working for Radio SRF since 2007 and has been a business editor since 2016. His areas of expertise are aviation, tourism, transport, retail and energy.