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IP/05/1654

Brussels, 21st December 2005

State aid: Commission gives go-ahead to conversion of the financial services business of La Poste into a subsidiary

The European Commission has approved, under the EC Treaty rules on state aid, the transfer of the banking and financial business of the French Post Office (La Poste) to its subsidiary, Banque Postale. Following a thorough analysis, the Commission has found that the operation as such will not confer an economic advantage on Banque Postale. The French authorities have entered into commitments ensuring this outcome. The associated issues, not directly linked to the transfer, such as the special right to distribute the "livret A" (a tax-free savings account for which La Poste has enjoyed a special distribution right since 1881), the unlimited state guarantee granted to La Poste and the welfare schemes for La Poste employees reassigned to Banque Postale, will be examined separately.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The conversion of the financial business of La Poste into a subsidiary is in itself a major step towards greater transparency in the banking sector in France".

The French State and La Poste have decided to bring the financial business of La Poste under the ordinary rules. All the assets, rights and obligations attached to the financial services of La Poste will be transferred as of 1 January 2006 to Banque Postale, a limited company initially 100% owned by La Poste.

The European Commission's role is to ensure that the transfer does not result in any advantage being conferred on Banque Postale.

Following notification by the French authorities, the Commission examined, in the light of the EC Treaty rules on state aid, the measures forming part of the conversion operation that were liable to confer an advantage on Banque Postale: the provision of own funds by La Poste to its subsidiary, the state guarantee covering regulated savings products (other than the livret A) and the service agreements between La Poste and its subsidiary.

The provision of own funds by La Poste to its subsidiary

The Commission has checked that the own funds transferred to Banque Postale, in line with the accounting standards applicable to operations of this nature, correspond to the own funds currently assigned to the financial services of La Poste. In the absence of additional capital from the French State, the Commission takes the view that, having due regard to the situation at the time of transfer of the business, this provision does not constitute state aid. Verification that the level of own funds of Banque Postale is sufficient for the volume and nature of its business is not a matter for the Commission: it is the responsibility of the national prudential authorities.

The state guarantee covering regulated savings products (other than the livret A)

Funds deposited in accounts and savings accounts[1] transferred to Banque Postale will be covered by the state guarantee between 1 January and 31 December 2006. Under an agreement, Banque Postale will remunerate the State for this guarantee in respect of the fraction of deposits made after 1 January 2006 that exceeds €70 000. The Commission has checked that the premium paid by Banque Postale for the grant of the state guarantee will be set in line with market conditions so that the state guarantee does not confer an economic advantage on Banque Postale.

The service agreements between La Poste and Banque Postale

The Law on postal activities requires La Poste and Banque Postale to conclude one or more service agreements "to determine the terms on which the credit institution makes use, with a view to achieving its object, of the resources of La Poste, in particular its staff".

On the basis of relevant case law[2] and following a thorough examination of the analytical accounts of La Poste, the Commission takes the view that:

  • The total cost base of La Poste (the costs incurred in carrying on economic activities, used for calculating the remuneration paid by the subsidiary to its parent company) is not underestimated. Mechanisms preventing the potential transfer of advantages are in place to prevent any leakage between La Poste and its subsidiary. Among other things, the French authorities have undertaken to ensure that Banque Postale is financed at market conditions.
  • Calculation of the costs generated through the provision of services by La Poste to its subsidiary is based on analytical accounting principles that are applied consistently and are objectively justifiable in line with Community legislation and case law.
  • The remuneration paid by the subsidiary under the service agreements covers the costs attributed to the financial services.

In other words, the Commission's examination has shown that Banque Postale does not receive any economic advantage via the remuneration it pays to La Poste under the service agreements.


[1] Accounts referred to in Articles 2 and 4 of Decree No 2005-1068 of 30 August 2005 implementing Law No 2005-516 of 20 May 2005 on the regulation of postal activities.

[2] The reference framework for the state aid analysis of the remuneration for services provided by La Poste to its subsidiary is the judgment handed down by the Court of Justice of the European Communities on 3 July 2003 in Chronopost.


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