It said the pipeline's operating company needed to be compliant with German law before it would certify the €10bn (£8.4bn) project. The decision sent UK and mainland Europe wholesale gas prices, already under pressure, to three-week highs.
The German regulator said "it would only be possible to certify an operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if that operator was organized in a legal form under German law".
The decision is likely to set the project back several months and even when it receives German approval it will require a green light from the European Commission.
The regulator said its approval procedure would remain suspended until "the main assets and human resources" had been transferred from the Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 parent company to its German subsidiary, which owns and operates the German part of the pipeline.
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