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Brussels, 31st October 2008

State aid: Commission approves Dutch guarantee scheme for financial institutions

The European Commission has approved, under EC Treaty state aid rules, a Dutch guarantee scheme intended to restore and facilitate the financing of Dutch financial institutions, which is hampered by the drying up of the interbank lending market. This in turn endangers the provision of loans to companies and households. The Commission found the scheme to be in line with its Guidance Communication on state aid to overcome the current financial crisis (see IP/08/1495). The scheme constitutes an adequate means to remedy a serious disturbance in the Dutch economy while avoiding undue distortions of competition and is therefore compatible with Article 87.3.b. of the EC Treaty. In particular, the scheme provides for non discriminatory access, is limited in time and scope, requires an adequate guarantee fee and provides safeguards to minimise distortions of competition.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The Dutch guarantee scheme is an efficient tool to preserve the access of financial institutions to the short and medium term financing they need, but at the same time is ring-fenced against abuses."

On 21 October 2008, the Dutch authorities notified a guarantee scheme which aims at tackling the liquidity problems of financial institutions created by the drying up of the market of unsecured loans. As a consequence, fundamentally sound and viable financial institutions experience severe difficulties in their funding. The Dutch scheme aims at restoring these institutions' access to financing, so as to avoid disruptions in the provision of loans to companies and households.

The Commission concluded that the guarantee scheme complies with the conditions laid down in its Communication on state aid for financial institutions in the context of the current global financial crisis (see IP/08/1495):

  • Non-discriminatory access: eligibility for the support scheme is not based on nationality. All the solvent financial institutions with significant activities in The Netherlands are eligible, including the subsidiaries of foreign banks;
  • Types of liabilities covered: the guarantee scheme covers only newly issued unsecured senior short and medium term debt instruments. The State support is therefore limited in scope to what is necessary to allow banks to regain access to short and medium term financing;
  • Limited temporal scope: the Dutch authorities have commited to renotify the scheme after eight months and to report every six months to the Commission on the implementation of the scheme. This will enable the Commission to verify that the measures are not maintained when the financial crisis is over;
  • Appropriate contribution of the private sector: participating banks will pay a guarantee fee derived from market prices. The fee system is in line with the recommendations of the ECB;
  • Avoidance of undue distortions of competition: Sufficient behavioural rules for beneficiaries are in place to prevent abuses. In particular, expansion of the participating banks is capped and they can not advertise the receipt of state guarantees.
  • An appropriate follow-up: when a guarantee has been invoked because a bank could not face its liabilities and is not rapidly reimbursed, the Dutch authorities have committed to swiftly notify a viability plan to the Commission in line with the state aid rules for the restructuring of companies in difficulties (see MEMO/04/172).

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N 524/2008 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

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