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Brussels, 28th April 2009

State aid: Commission approves amendments to Swedish bank guarantee

The European Commission has approved under EC Treaty state aid rules a package of amendments to the Swedish state guarantee scheme for financial institutions, initially approved on 30 October 2008 and 29 January 2009 (see IP/08/1600 and IP/09/186). The changes concern the prolongation of the scheme's validity until 31 October 2009 and the extension of its scope. The Commission found that the amendments were in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495). In particular, they are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The amended Swedish guarantee scheme is therefore compatible with Article 87.3.b of the EC Treaty, which permits aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The global financial crisis is not over and there is still a need to build confidence and keep credit channels open. The Swedish guarantee scheme remains an appropriate and proportionate form of support and we can therefore approve it for another six months".

On 16 March 2009, Sweden notified the following modifications to its support measures for the banking industry:

  • Prolongation of the period during which guarantees can be provided by six months, until 31 October 2009 (instead of 30 April 2009).
  • Extension of the material scope of the scheme by including uncollateralised debt instruments with a term of up to five years, whereas it previously covered only maturities of up to three years. However, a strict limit is attached to the amount of guaranteed debt instruments with longer maturity. Accordingly, a maximum of SEK 500 billion of guaranteed instruments with terms over three years will be allowed. The total amount of guarantees that can be granted under the scheme remains unchanged at SEK 1,500 billion.
  • Amendment of the eligibility criteria for institutions covered by the scheme. Participating banks will only need to meet the basic legal capital requirements (and not the enhanced capital levels that applied previously). However, as before, only solvent institutions may benefit from the guarantee.

The purpose of the changes is to improve the short and medium term lending and help to smooth the banks' transition from reliance on state guarantees as markets recover. The Commission found that the amendments are well targeted, proportionate, and limited in time and scope. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme remains in line with the conditions laid down in the Commission Communication on state aid to the financial sector in the context of the current financial crisis (see IP/08/1495) and constitutes an appropriate means 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 154/2009 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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