Brussels, 17 July 2002
Commission approves privatisation and restructuring plan for Société Française de Production
The European Commission today decided not to raise any objections to the privatisation and restructuring plan for Société Française de Production (SFP). The plan provides for state financing of social measures for the workers laid off. Such measures, which are designed to reduce the adverse effect of redundancies without relieving the undertaking of its usual costs, are part of the social policy of the Member States and do not constitute aid within the meaning of the EC Treaty. SFP, which is wholly owned by the State, is a public undertaking in the audiovisual production sector (sets and studios, machinery, vision and sound, special effects, etc.)
Since the audiovisual production sector was opened up to competition in 1986, SFP has been through several crises, and the public authorities have intervened more than once to help it restructure and redeem its debts. Last November, the French authorities informed the Commission of their intention to sell SFP to a private investor, selected after a transparent and non-discriminatory award procedure, for about EUR 4.57 million (FF 30 million). The restructuring plan proposed by the buyer provides for the layoff of about 70% of SFP's workforce. The buyer will pay the cost of compulsory redundancy payments (EUR 5.3 million), while the public authorities will finance the additional social measures for those laid off (EUR 43.1 million).
The Commission has found that the State will finance only social measures for the workers laid off and is not relieving the firm of the costs which it normally has to bear as a result of its legal and contractual obligations. In the circumstances, the Commission considers that the social plan financed by the State does not include state aid for SFP.
The Commission's scrutiny of the plan has shown that:
To sum up, examination of the notified plan has not revealed any state aid for SFP. The Commission has therefore decided not to raise any objections to it.