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Brussels, 29th January 2009

State aid: Commission approves modifications to Swedish support schemes for financial institutions

The European Commission has approved under EC Treaty state aid rules a set of planned amendments to the Swedish state guarantee scheme for financial institutions, initially approved by the Commission on 29 October 2008 (see IP/08/1600). The amendments concern inter alia the cancellation of growth restrictions of participating banks. The changes are in line with EU guidance (see IP/08/1901) and will support the stability of the financial sector. The Commission therefore concluded that the Swedish support measures, as amended, are compatible with the Single Market.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Thanks to good cooperation with the Swedish authorities and the Commission’s streamlined procedures we have once again been able to take a quick and effective decision that allows support to be available to Swedish banks, tailored to current circumstances, without giving rise to disproportionate distortions of competition..”

On 16 January 2009 Sweden notified a set of changes to its guarantee system for the financial sector (see IP/08/1600). The amendments concern the following basic features:

  • For groups of financial institutions, the maximum amount of debt that can be covered by the guarantee will no longer be assessed at the level of the individual institutions but at the level of the group. This will give groups more freedom to allocate their borrowing between their constituent parts.
  • The scope of the guarantee is extended to certain mortgage institutions that were previously excluded.
  • The requirement of a balance sheet growth limitation to certain thresholds for banks participating in the guarantee scheme will no longer apply.

In addition, the Swedish Central Bank will accept debt covered by the guarantee as equivalent to government bonds for the purposes of its rules on collateral for the full maturity of the debt instruments (and not, as previously, only until 30 April 2009).

The adjusted package takes into account the latest guidance of the Commission, issued on 8th December 2008 (see IP/08/1901). The Swedish authorities expect that the amendments to the scheme will help to restore confidence in the Swedish financial market and to stimulate inter-bank lending.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N 26/2009 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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