Competition weekly news summary
20 December 2012
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The next competition news summary will be published on 11 January 2013. We wish you a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.

Conferences and speeches

  • Approval of restructuring plans for Spanish banks Banco Mare Nostrum, Banco Caja3, Liberbank, Banco CEISS
    Commission's press room, Berlaymont, Brussels, Joaquín Almunia
    20 December 2012
    Read full speech in Spanish >
  • Statement by Vice President Almunia on the Google investigation
    18 December 2012
    "Since our preliminary talks with Google started in July, we have substantially reduced our differences regarding possible ways to address each of the four competition concerns expressed by the Commission. On the basis of the progress made, I now expect Google to come forward with a detailed commitment text in January 2013."
    Read full statement >

Competition

  • ECN publishes 5th 2012 newsbrief
    The European Competition Network (ECN), composed of the Commission and Member States' competition authorities (NCAs), has publised an extended issue of its newsbrief for the 10th anniversary of Regulation 1/2003. Next to the regular part - reporting on cases based on EU antitrust law and legislative and policy news - this issue contains contributions from NCAs showing how Regulation 1/2003 has impacted on their national law and to what extent it served as inspiration for convergence. The extended issue also highlights the endorsement of the refined ECN Model Leniency Programme and the publication of the ECN reports on investigative and decision making powers.
    Go to newsbrief >
  • Commission publishes work program "Civil Justice" as basis for 2013 call for proposals on training of judges in EU competition matters
    The 2013 annual work program Civil Justice is now available. It will be the basis for the next call for proposals on training national judges in EU competition matters, that is expected to be launchen in the first quater of 2013. Grants may be awarded to support measures taken by bodies that foster judicial cooperation and training in EU competition law for national judges and cooperation between them.
    Read more >

Antitrust

  • Commission market tests commitments from Star alliance members Lufthansa, United and Air Canada concerning transatlantic cooperation
    21 December 2012
    The Commission has invited interested parties to comment on commitments proposed by Lufthansa, United and Air Canada to address competition concerns about their transatlantic cooperation. The Commission has concerns that this cooperation may harm premium passengers on the Frankfurt-New York route because it could result in higher prices, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The parties have offered to make landing and take-off slots available at Frankfurt and/or New York to facilitate the entry of competitors on this route. The parties are also prepared to enter into fare combinability and special prorate agreements with competitors to enable them to offer tickets on their flights and facilitate access to connecting traffic. If the market test confirms that the proposed commitments remedy the competition concerns, the Commission may make them legally binding on the parties.
    Read more >
  • Commission renders legally binding commitments from Thomson Reuters
    20 December 2012
    The Commission has rendered legally binding commitments offered by Thomson Reuters to create a new licence ("ERL") allowing customers, for a monthly fee, to use Reuters Instrument Codes (RICs) for data sourced from Thomson Reuters' competitors. RICs are codes that identify securities, used by financial institutions to retrieve data from Thomson Reuters' real-time datafeeds. The Commission had concerns that Thomson Reuters' could be abusing its dominant position in the market for consolidated real-time datafeeds through its licensing practices, in breach of EU antitrust rules. To remedy these concerns, Thomson Reuters offered commitments. After two market tests and substantial improvements to the initial offer, the Commission has concluded that the final commitments remedy its competition concerns.
    Read more >
  • Commission renders legally binding commitments from Rio Tinto Alcan
    20 December 2012
    The Commission has rendered legally binding commitments offered by Rio Tinto Alcan to address concerns raised by the Commission about competition on the markets for aluminium smelting equipment. The Commission was concerned that the company may have infringed EU antitrust rules by contractually tying the licensing of its leading Aluminium Pechiney ("AP") smelting technology to the purchase of handling equipment (namely, pot tending assemblies or "PTAs") from its subsidiary Electrification Charpente Levage ("ECL"). PTAs are specialty cranes used in aluminium reduction plants (smelters) where primary aluminium is produced. Rio Tinto Alcan committed to modify its future technology transfer agreements so as to enable licensees of its AP technology to purchase PTAs from any recommended supplier.
    Read more >

Mergers

  • Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Mach by Syniverse
    20 December 2012
    The Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition of Mach of Luxembourg by Syniverse of the US. Roaming is the sending and receiving of calls, SMS and data while travelling abroad. The parties are data clearing houses (DCHs) that settle the usage records of subscribers that roam on mobile operators' networks. Mobile operators use these services to determine the wholesale payments they make to each other for the roaming of these subscribers. These payments are ultimately incorporated in consumers' phone bills. The Commission's initial investigation indicated that the merger may raise competition concerns on various roaming technology markets.
    Read more >
  • Commission clears acquisition of US titanium producer Timet by US component manufacturer PCC
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of the US titanium producer Timet by the US component manufacturer Precision Castparts Corporation (PCC). Timet produces titanium parts that PCC uses for manufacturing components. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the merged entity would be unable to raise prices for Timet’s inputs because of the existence of long term supply agreements (LTAs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bargaining power.
    Read more >

State aid

  • Crisis-related aid aside, Scoreboard shows continued trend towards less and better targeted aid
    21 December 2012
    The Commission's 2012 State Aid Scoreboard revealed that the volume of national support to the financial sector actually taken by banks between October 2008 and 31 December 2011 amounted to around €1.6 trillion (13 % of EU GDP). The bulk (67 %) came in the form of State guarantees on banks' wholesale funding. Support to the real economy on the basis of temporary crisis rules dropped to € 4.8 billion in 2011, a fall of more than 50% compared with 2010, reflecting both a low uptake by companies and the budgetary constraints of most EU Member States.
    Read more >
  • Commission approves restructuring plans of Spanish banks Liberbank, Caja3, Banco Mare Nostrum and Banco CEISS
    20 December 2012
    The Commission has concluded that the restructuring plans of four Spanish banks, Liberbank, Caja3, Banco Mare Nostrum (BMN) and Banco CEISS, are in line with EU state aid rules. The in-depth restructuring undergone by the four banks will allow them to become viable in the long-term without continued state support. Moreover, the banks and their stakeholders adequately contribute to the costs of restructuring. Finally, the plans foresee sufficient safeguards to limit the distortions of competition induced by the state support. The restructuring plans were submitted to the Commission for approval as foreseen by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between Spain and the Eurogroup in July 2012. Today's decisions will allow the banks to receive aid from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in the context of the financial assistance programme to recapitalise the Spanish banking sector.
    Read more >
    Commission's contribution to Spanish financial assistance program >
  • Overview of decisions and on-going in-depth investigations in the context of the financial crisis
    20 December 2012
    Go to overview >
  • Commission adopts new Broadband Guidelines
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has adopted revised guidelines for the application of EU state aid rules to the broadband sector. These guidelines will help Member States achieve the objectives of the EU Digital Agenda. Taking into account extensive submissions from stakeholders, they reinforce open access obligations and improve transparency. They also integrate the principles of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative, which aims at facilitating well-designed aid targeted at market failures in order to achieve growth-enhancing priorities, while simplifying the rules to allow for faster decisions.
    Read more >
  • Commission finds Italian ICI real estate tax exemptions for non-commercial entities incompatible and clears amended exemptions under new IMU law
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has found that the former Italian system of municipal real estate tax exemptions granted to non-commercial entities for specific purposes (ICI) between 2006 and 2011 was incompatible with EU state aid rules. After the Commission opened an in-depth investigation in October 2010, Italy amended the system and has now adopted a new municipal real estate tax law (IMU), which does not involve state aid, since exemptions will only apply to premises where non-economic activities are carried out. The Commission has therefore closed its investigation.
    Read more >
  • Commission approves German scheme supporting noise reduction in rail freight transport
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has found a €152 million German scheme to support the reduction of noise generated by rail freight traffic to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measure will reimburse up to 50% of the cost of equipping existing freight wagons used in Germany with less noisy composite brake blocks. This will allow reducing noise emissions to the standard foreseen for new wagons. The Commission found that the aid supports the coordination of transport in line with Article 93 TFEU.
    Read more >
  • Commission orders recovery of €360 million unlawful aid from Italian ground handling operator SEA Handling
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has concluded that around €360 million of state aid granted between 2002 and 2010 by SEA, the state-owned operator of the Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports, to its subsidiary SEA Handling, ground handling operator at the airports, is incompatible with EU state aid rules. The Commission's investigation found that the capital injections carried out by SEA Handling's state-owned shareholders procured an undue economic advantage to SEA Handling that its competitors, who have to operate without state subsidies, did not have. SEA Handling now needs to pay back the undue advantage with interest.
    Read more >
  • Commission authorises transitional free allocation of greenhouse gas emission allowances for modernisation of Czech and Hungarian electricity sector
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has concluded that provisions of Hungary's and the Czech Republic's plans for the modernisation of their electricity sector, which involve the allocation of carbon emission trading allowances free of charge, are in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the funds thus granted, amounting to €1.878 million for the Czech Republic and €56 million for Hungary, will be used to modernise production infrastructure, diversify the energy mix or construct new installations. This will contribute to liberalising energy markets, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the security of supply, in line with EU objectives.
    Read more >
  • Commission clears support for urban regeneration projects in Greece and Bulgaria
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has approved a Greek and a Bulgarian scheme aimed at supporting urban regeneration projects through the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA) initiative. The Commission found the schemes to be in line with EU state aid rules that allow supporting the development of certain economic areas, in particular because they address market failures affecting urban regeneration projects without unduly distorting competition.
    Read more >
  • Commission approves capital injection to finalise construction of Berlin Brandenburg airport
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has concluded that a €1.2 billion capital injection planned by the public owners of the new Berlin Brandenburg (BER) airport in order to finalise its construction is in line with EU rules on state aid. Since the intervention would be made on terms that a private investor operating under normal market conditions would accept, it does not involve any state aid as defined by EU rules.
    Read more >
  • Commission approves € 100 million aid for infrastructure at Port of Augusta, Sicily
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has found a €100 million aid granted by Italy for an infrastructure project at the Port of Augusta, in Sicily to be in line with EU state aid rules. The investment project will allow the Port of Augusta to upgrade existing infrastructure for the cargo handling and to host container traffic. The aid is compatible with the state aid rules, because it serves an objective of common interest, i.e. adapting existent infrastructure to intermodal transport. Moreover, the public financing is necessary in order to make the project possible and the aid is limited to the amount strictly necessary in order to achieve this goal. Finally, the potential distortions of competition are relatively limited.
    Read more >
  • Commission adopts revised rules on state aid for export-credit insurance
    19 December 2012
    The Commission has revised its rules for applying EU state aid rules to short-term export-credit insurance. Based on its experience in the application of the current communication, in particular during the financial crisis, and in light of stakeholders replies to two rounds of consultations, the Commission introduced the following main changes:
    - identification of four possible market gaps that can justify State intervention;
    - introduction of conditions under which such intervention can take place in line with EU state aid rules; and
    - possibility to modify the list of marketable risks countries on the basis of objective criteria.
    The new rules will apply as of 1 January 2013.
    Go to communication >
  • Commission opens in-depth investigation into payment of dividends by Caixa Geral de Depósitos
    18 December 2012
    The Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a payment of dividends in September 2012 by Caixa Geral Finance Limited, an affiliate of Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), is in line with EU State aid rules. In June 2012 CGD received a rescue capital injection from the Portuguese State amounting to €1.65 billion. The Commission had authorised the capital increase, subject to commitments, including - in particular - a ban on the payment of dividends and coupons on hybrid capital. The Commission will investigate whether the dividend payments involve a misuse of the rescue aid that CGD had received and whether they constitute, in turn, state aid to the recipients.
    Read more >
  • Commission temporarily approves rescue aid for Italian bank Monte dei Paschi
    17 December 2012
    The Commission has temporarily approved a €3.9 billion recapitalisation of Italy's third largest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena for reasons of financial stability. The measure will enable the bank to comply with recommendations from the European Banking Authority. The approval is conditional upon the submission of a restructuring plan within six months from the decision.
    Read more >

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