JP Morgan has drawn up plans to shift work from offices in Germany into the City of London as finance companies brace for potential blackouts in the EU’s biggest economy.
The Wall Street bank is preparing a raft of emergency measures so that it can continue trading if there are power outages this winter following Vladimir Putin’s decision to cut off gas supplies from Russia.
It came as the energy crisis gripping Europe deepened, with the Kremlin announcing that the crucial Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will remain shut until Western sanctions are eased, and the Opec-plus cartel of oil exporting countries agreeing to cut crude output.
The euro fell below $0.99 for the first time since December 2002, dropping by as much as 0.7pc to $0.9878 as wholesale gas prices surged and stocks slumped.
Shares were also hit, with Germany’s benchmark Dax index falling 2.2pc, while France’s Cac 40 stock index dropped 1.2pc. Benchmark European gas prices jumped as much as 35pc.
The market chaos is spurring finance companies to prepare for the worst. JP Morgan is understood to be wargaming options such as shifting work from its Frankfurt base to London and other European offices if Germany is plunged into darkness.
A source added: “Work transfers could also be to and from any location, not just involving the UK.”
JP Morgan – which moved billions of dollars of assets from London to Frankfurt in the wake of the Brexit vote – could also fire up diesel generators at its offices that would allow them to function for several days without mains power, or tell staff to work from home to reduce energy consumption.
The plans have been put in place as a precaution and the bank currently has no intention of activating any of the measures, it is understood.
A source said: “It would take a perfect storm of a complete shutdown of Russian gas supply, no reduction of gas use at all and little alternative sourcing for gas before it would have real impact on our business.”
Germany announced €65bn (£56bn) of fresh financial help for households and businesses over the weekend, as well as a windfall tax on energy company profits to help pay for this extra support.
Brussels is also considering a European Union-wide tax on electricity generators amid a scramble to try and curb the cost-of-living crisis, with energy ministers due to discuss the proposal at a meeting on Friday.
The plan was backed on Monday by Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, who said he supports a “European mechanism which we’d ask for from European energy operators whose production costs are far lower than market sale prices.”
Many wind and solar plant owners are believed to be making huge profits because wholesale prices have soared but their costs have not.
In both the EU and the UK, wholesale electricity prices are tied to the price of gas, even if electricity has been generated from other, cheaper sources.
Gas prices are ten or more times higher than long term averages as Russia restricts supplies to Europe, with the closure of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Friday adding further pressure.
Meanwhile in a bid to reverse a drop in crude prices, Opec-plus – which includes Russia and Saudi Arabia – decided to cut output by 100,000 barrels per day next month in an effort to bolster prices. Brent crude climbed 2pc to more than $95 a barrel on Monday.
JP Morgan declined to comment on its contingency plans. Goldman Sachs and Barclays also declined to comment on any plans they have for potential power outages.