Judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in the cases P Bouygues and Bouygues Télécom v Commission (C-399/10) and P Commission v France and Others (C-401/10) on State aid
On 19 March 2013, the Court of Justice of the EU gave judgement in the cases P Bouygues and Bouygues Télécom v Commission (C-399/10) and P Commission v France and Others (C-401/10) on State aid.
France Télécom SA, an operator and supplier of telecommunications networks and services, was formed in 1991 as a legal person governed by public law, and since 1996 has had the status of a public limited company. France Télécom has been listed on the stock exchange since October 1997. In 2002, the French State’s participation in France Télécom’s capital was 56.45%, the remainder being divided between the public (32.25%), France Télécom itself (8.26%) and employees of the company (3.04%). France Télécom’s half-yearly accounts confirmed that, as at 30 June 2002, its consolidated own funds had become negative to the amount of €440 million, and that its net debt reached €69.69 billion, including €48.9 billion of bond debt falling due for repayment during the period from 2003 to 2005. At the same time, France Télécom’s share prices fell significantly. In the light of France Télécom’s financial situation, the French Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry, in an interview published on 12 July 2002 in the daily newspaper Les Echos, stated that if France Télécom were to face any financing problems, the French State would take whatever decisions were necessary to overcome them. Then, in a press release of 13 September 2002 on France Télécom’s financial situation, the French authorities stated, in essence, that the French State would contribute to the strengthening of France Télécom’s capital base and would, if necessary, take steps to prevent France Télécom from being faced with any financing difficulties. The Court of Justice quashes the judgment of the General Court annulling the Commission’s decision classifying the French State’s declarations of support and shareholder loan in favour of France Télécom as State aid. Although this loan was not implemented by France Télécom, it conferred an advantage granted through State resources that could potentially have burdened the State budget.
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