Competition weekly news summary
Friday, December 18, 2009

Conferences and Speeches

  • Your Internet, Your Choice: Microsoft web browsers decision
    Opening remarks at press conference, Brussels, Neelie Kroes
    16 December 2009
    "It is as if you went to the supermarket and they only offered you one brand of shampoo on the shelf, and all the other choices are hidden out the back, and not everyone knows about them. What we are saying today is that all the brands should be on the shelf."

Antitrust

Mergers

  • Commission approves acquisition of MPS Group by Adecco
    18 December 2009
    The Commission’s investigation showed that the overlaps between Adecco and MPS Group are limited in most Member States, except for the provision of temporary employment services in relation to IT, legal and financial specialists in the UK. However, the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns in these sectors as the merged entity would continue to be constrained by strong competitors.
  • Commission approves proposed acquisition of Alcan Packaging by Amcor, subject to conditions
    15 December 2009
    The Commission's investigation found competition concerns in the European market for flexible packaging used in the pharmaceutical sector. The merged entity would have a strong position in this market and the merger would create a very strong supplier, while only a limited number of large competitors would continue to be active in the market. To address these concerns, Amcor offered to divest two plants which represent the major part of its pharmaceutical flexible packaging business in Europe.
  • Commission approves proposed acquisition of Ensys by RWE, Capiton and Gothaer
    15 December 2009
    The Commission's investigation found that the proposed merger would not materially alter the competitive conditions in the relevant markets. A sufficient number of competitors would remain able to trade electricity and to provide electricity to end-users.
  • Commission approves proposed acquisition of joint control of MET by Normeston and MOL
    14 December 2009
    The Commission's investigation found that due to Normeston's minor position in the upstream market, MOL's competitors would continue to have ample possibilities to source their feedstock from other suppliers. As Normeston is not active in any of the downstream markets, there would be no risk of closing off customers post-transaction.
  • Commission welcomes Oracle's MySQL announcement
    The European Commission can confirm that it has engaged in constructive discussions with Oracle regarding the maintenance of MySQL as an important competitive force in the database market after Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Oracle's announcement of a series of undertakings to customers, developers and users of MySQL is an important new element to be taken into account in the ongoing proceedings.

State aid

  • Overview of national measures adopted as a response to the financial/economic crisis
    17 December 2009
  • Commission approves Austrian short-term export credit insurance scheme
    17 December 2009
    The Commission authorised an Austrian measure to limit the adverse impact of the current financial crisis on exporting firms. The Commission found the measure to be in line with EU state aid rules because it requires a higher remuneration than that offered by the private market and tackles the problem of the current insufficiency of the short-term export credit insurance cover in the private market.
  • Steel restructuring: Commission finds that restructuring of Bulgarian steelmaker Kremikovtzi failed
    16 December 2009
    The Commission found that the Bulgarian steel producer Kremikovtzi did not implement the business plan established for its restructuring, which had been agreed by the Commission in 2006 on the basis of a special steel protocol to the Europe Agreement applicable to EU/Bulgaria relations prior to the 2007 accession. Between 1998 and 2005, the company received about €222 million restructuring aid, but failed to modernise its infrastructure and to reduce its production costs. The company went bankrupt in August 2008 and Bulgaria initiated the recovery of the aid plus interest in the context of the ongoing liquidation proceedings.
  • Commission endorses €33.8 million public R&D funding for Diehl Aircabin
    15 December 2009
    The Commission authorised Germany under EU state aid rules to give €33.8 million of R&D support to Diehl Aircabin, for the experimental development of aircraft-cabin linings and air ducts. Each of the two projects would receive one repayable advance of €14.7 and €10.9 million respectively and one regular loan of €4.7 million and €3.5 million respectively at market-interest rates. The Commission found the repayable advances compatible with the EU state aid rules because the aid addresses a specific market failure of the private capital market, is appropriate, and is limited to the minimum necessary. The loans are granted on market terms and do not constitute state aid.
  • Commission approves public service compensation for Polish Post until 2011, subject to conditions
    15 December 2009
    The Commission endorsed a Polish scheme intended to compensate the Polish Post for net losses incurred in discharging its public service obligations between 2006 and 2011. The Commission found the compensation mechanism to be in line with EU state aid rules, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled. In particular, Poland must improve the entrustment act and ensure that any significant changes to the cost allocation method for compensatory payments remain compatible with the cost accounting rules of Article 14 of the EU Postal Directive (97/67/EC).
  • Commission authorises Poland to grant a PLN 40.5 million loan for restructuring of pharmaceutical firm POLFA
    15 December 2009
    The Commission authorised a PLN 40.5 million (around €10 million) loan that Poland intends to grant for the restructuring of "POLFA" S.A. The Commission concluded that the aid was in line with EU state aid rules, because the aid amount is limited to the minimum necessary to implement the restructuring plan, compensatory measures are in place to avoid undue distortion of competition and the restructuring plan is suitable to ensure the long-term viability of the company.
  • Commission prohibits Dutch energy tax exemption for production of ceramic products
    15 December 2009
    After an in-depth investigation, the Commission found that a tax exemption the Dutch State intends to grant for natural gas used in installations for the production of ceramic products would be in breach of EU state aid rules and therefore cannot be implemented. In particular, the Commission found that the tax exemption would provide a selective advantage to the Dutch ceramic sector and so constitute operating aid. Such aid can be authorised only if it furthers, at least indirectly, environmental objectives.
  • Commission approves changes in Dutch social housing system
    15 December 2009
    The Commission endorsed commitments from the Dutch authorities to change the existing social housing system to bring it into line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Dutch authorities will ensure that state funding is not used for commercial activities and that housing is attributed in a transparent manner according to objective criteria. In addition, Commission has approved for the next ten years new aid of €750 million for social housing projects in declining urban areas. The Commission found the aid to be compatible with EU state aid rules on Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI).
  • Commission approves LBBW restructuring plan and impaired assets relief measure
    15 December 2009
    The Commission approved the impaired asset relief measures and the restructuring plan of German-based financial institution Landesbank Baden Württemberg ("LBBW"). The restructuring plan demonstrates that LBBW is able to restore its viability while undue distortions of competition will be mitigated. Also the bank's own contribution to the restructuring costs is ensured through loss participations by hybrid capital holders. In addition, changes in the bank's corporate governance structure will provide an additional safeguard against excessive risk-taking and ensure that LBBW will be run on a sound commercial basis.
  • Commission approves Latvian state guarantee to JSC Liepajas Metalurgs
    15 December 2009
    The Commission authorised an €89 million state guarantee that Latvia intends to provide to the steel manufacturer JSC Liepajas Metalurgs (LM) for financing its modernisation. LM is an economically sound company of strategic importance for the Latvian economy. Due to the financial crisis, LM could not raise money necessary for its modernisation without a state guarantee.
  • Commission approves impaired asset relief measure and restructuring plan of Royal Bank of Scotland
    14 December 2009
    The Commission approved the impaired asset relief measure and the restructuring plan of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The Commission is satisfied that the measures are in line with the EU State aid rules, because they ensure a sustainable future for RBS without continued state support, foresee an appropriate participation of the bank in the costs of restructuring, and include safeguards to limit distortions of competition, notably by reducing the size of the bank.

Court

  • T-57/01 and T-58/01 Solvay v Commission
    17 December 2009
    The General Court ruled on two appeals by Solvay against a Commission decison of 13 December 2000, that had imposed fines on Solvay for its involvement in a restrictive practice and an abuse of its dominant position on the soda ash market in the 1980's. The General Court upheld most of the Commission's findings, but reduced Solvay's fine.
  • T-156/04 EDF v Commission
    15 December 2009
    The General Court ruled on an appeal by EDF against a Commission decison of 16 December 2003 finding that EDF had received incompatible state aid and ordering its recovery from the beneficiary. The General Court annulled the commission decision for formal reasons.

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Published by the Competition Directorate General of the European Commission. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. Neither the Commission nor any person acting on its behalf is responsible for the use which might be made of the above information.

© European Union, 2009. Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

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