BRUSSELS, July 9 The European Commision said it
had opened an in-depth probe into whether a 25 million euro ($34
million) capital injection by Milan airport operator SEA into
its new ground-handling unit was in line with EU state aid
The investigation will examine whether the funding provided
by SEA to subsidiary Airport Handling had circumvented a 2012
decision by the Commission that required SEA to repay
incompatible state aid granted to its previous ground-handling
unit, SEA Handling.
SEA, which is nearly 55 percent-owned by the city of Milan,
could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the Italian authorities, there was no economic
continuity between SEA Handling, which was wound up in June this
year, and Airport Handling, which started operations in July,
the Commission said.
"However, the Commission has concerns that the aim and
result of creating the new company was to avoid repaying the
incompatible state aid," it said in a statement on Wednesday.
It said the scope of the transferred activities, the price
of the assets, the identity of shareholders and the timing and
economic logic of the operation all "seemed to indicate that
Airport Handling is in fact the successor of SEA Handling".
The European Commission will also examine whether the
capital injection was carried out on market terms.
In a separate case, the Commission is investigating whether
an investment by Italy's state-owned postal service in
loss-making flagship carrier Alitalia last year complied with EU
state aid rules.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros)
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; writing by Agnieszka Flak;
editing by Jane Baird)