Brussels, 19 December 2012
State aid: Commission approves capital injection to finalise construction of Berlin Brandenburg airport
The European Commission has concluded that a €1.2 billion capital injection planned by the public owners of the new Berlin Brandenburg (BER) airport in order to finalise its construction is in line with EU rules on state aid. Since the intervention would be made on terms that a private investor operating under normal market conditions would accept, it does not involve any state aid as defined by EU rules.
On 28 November 2012, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Länder of Berlin and Brandenburg notified, for reasons of legal certainty, a financial measure to finalise the construction of BER airport and putting it into operation. Due to an unexpected national court judgment, obliging the airport to significantly improve noise protection for its neighbours, as well as unforeseen planning and construction problems, in particular with the fire safety system in the main terminal, the airport manager Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH (FBB) had to face €1.2 billion extra costs. Since FBB is unable to finance these costs through internal resources, the public owners plan to increase its equity by the same amount.
Interventions by public authorities in companies carrying out economic activities can be considered free of aid if, in similar circumstances, a private investor operating under normal market conditions would have acted in the same way (according to the so-called "market economy investor principle" – MEIP). If this is the case, the public intervention does not provide the company with an undue economic advantage which could distort competition.
The Commission has found that FBB's equity value with the planned investment would be positive and higher than the €1.2 billion to be injected. Moreover, stress tests have showed that this would even be true under pessimistic business assumptions. The Commission has therefore concluded that the planned capital injection complies with the MEIP and thus does not involve any state aid in the meaning of EU rules.
This decision clarifies the application of EU state aid rules to airports, in particular the application of the MEIP test.
Since FBB had received state aid for the construction of BER in 2009 (case SA.28141), the Commission also first had to determine whether the new measure should be assessed together with the already approved aid or could be dealt with separately. The Commission concluded that the new measure can reasonably be separated from the previous state aid measures. This is because the capital injection has become necessary after a considerable time elapsed following the first measure and because it relates to costs that could not have been reasonably foreseen when the investment plan of the airport was set up and when the Commission took its 2009 decision.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.35378 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.