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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

State Aid Decisions


The European Commission announced several state aid decisions on July 9:

1) Commission approved exemptions from Danish tax on advertising to households

The European Commission has found a series of reductions and exemptions from a Danish tax on non-nominative advertising material delivered to households, to be in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that while some of these measures contain state aid, it is compatible with EU rules as it furthers EU environmental and cultural goals without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

Denmark plans to introduce a tax on non-nominative advertising material delivered to households, as it is concerned by the large volume of waste paper generated by households. The tax amounts to DKK 4/kg (around €0.54). A reduced rate of DKK 2/kg applies to advertising material bearing the EU Ecolabel and three products are exempted:

advertising material concerning societies covered by the Danish General Education Act weekly newspapers with at least 25% editorial content and telephone directories with at least 60% editorial content.

The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), allowing the granting of aid for the development of certain economic activities.

The Commission concluded that the reduced tax rate for advertising materials bearing the EU Ecolabel does not constitute state aid in the meaning of EU rules since it does not selectively favour specific companies. The Commission also found that the exemption for advertising material on activities in and from societies covered by the Danish General Education Act does not involve any state aid because it has no effect on trade between Member States.

2) Commission approved restructuring aid for Greek bank Alpha Bank

The European Commission has found the restructuring plan of the Greek Alpha Bank, including the acquisition and integration of Emporiki Bank, to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measures already implemented and those envisaged in the future will enable the bank to return to viability, while limiting the distortions of competition brought about by the state funding.

Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "Alpha Bank's restructuring will make a significant contribution to reinforcing the viability of the Greek banking sector, to the benefit of the Greek economy."

Since 2008, Greece and the HFSF have granted repeated capital and liquidity support to Alpha Bank. The Commission opened an in-depth investigation in July 2012. Greece has notified the restructuring plan of Alpha Bank in June 2014.

Alpha Bank has already started to implement significant restructuring and rationalisation measures. The restructuring plan continues this effort. It provides for a further downsizing of international operations and a reinforcement of Greek operations, mainly through a rationalisation of operating expenses, a reinforcement of the net interest income, the strengthening of the balance sheet and a strict risk monitoring. These commitments will be monitored by a trustee. They will help turning the company into a solid and viable bank that can contribute significantly to the sustainable financing of the Greek economy.

3) Commission approved restructuring aid for Slovenian airline Adria Airways

The European Commission has concluded that restructuring measures taken by Slovenia in favour of the national airline Adria Airways were in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found in particular that the company's restructuring plan will enable it to become viable in the long term without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. Moreover, two capital injections in 2007 and 2009 and the sale of an Adria Airways subsidiary in 2010 were carried out on market terms and therefore did not involve any state aid.

Adria Airways is a majority state-owned company that has been facing difficulties for several years. In order to address these difficulties, Adria Airways adopted a restructuring plan in September 2011. The Commission opened an in-depth investigation in November 2012.

Adria Airways benefitted from three public capital injections in 2007, 2009 and 2010, amounting to around €15.2 million in total, carried out through the state-owned holding Posebna družba za podjetniško svetovanje d.d. (PDP) and its predecessor Kapitalska druzba d.d. (KAD), respectively. The in-depth investigation has shown that these capital injections were based on reliable valuations and that Adria Airways paid the market price for the capital. The measures therefore provided no undue advantage to Adria Airways and do not constitute state aid.

The investigation has also shown that the share price for the sale of Adria Airways' subsidiary Adria Airways Tehnika (AAT) to PDP and the majority state-owned manager of Ljubljana's airport in 2010-2011 was determined on the basis of a valuation report prepared by an independent expert. The Commission concluded that the decision to invest in AAT was taken on the basis of market-oriented considerations. The sale therefore did not involve state aid.