COPENHAGEN, July 9 A 400-million-euro credit
facility given to Scandinavian airline SAS by the
governments of Sweden, Denmark and Norway in 2012 was not
illegal under European Union state aid rules, the EU Commission
said on Wednesday.
The Commission opened its investigation into the revolving
credit facility (RCF) last year, saying it "doubted" it had been
carried out under market conditions because the exposures of the
governments and the banks involved were different.
EU rules ban state aid which distorts competition and says
that support for companies has to be made on the same terms as a
private player operating under market conditions would offer.
On Wednesday, the Commission said while the exposure of the
states and banks were different, the facility was accompanied by
a robust business plan to save the ailing airline which was
under considerable pressure from low-cost competitors.
"The investigation has also established the robustness of
the underlying assumptions of the business plan. Indeed, the
plan has been reviewed by external advisers who confirmed its
credibility," it said in a statement.
"The Commission reached the conclusion that the new RCF was
concluded on terms that a private investor operating under
market conditions would have accepted," it said.
Although SAS trimmed its full-year profit forecast in May,
restructuring in recent years helped return it to profit in
2012/2013 for the first time in more than five years.
Had the Commission found that the aid was illegal, SAS would
have been obliged to repay it. However, the RCF was never used
and was cancelled by March 2014, the Commission said.
The regulatory arm of the European Free Trade Association
(EFTA), which launched a similar investigation at the same time,
reached the same conclusion as the Commission, according to a
statement from the EFTA.
(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki; editing by Jason Neely)