Brussels, 8 August 2012
State aid: Commission extends in-depth investigation into aid granted to Nürburgring racetrack in Germany
The European Commission has extended the scope of an in-depth investigation opened in March 2012 under EU state aid rules regarding a set of aid measures supporting the racetrack and leisure park at Nürburgring in Germany (see IP/12/263). The extension concerns several additional financial measures aimed at avoiding an immediate insolvency of the companies concerned. At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the measures were granted on market terms and that the companies are viable without continued state support. The extension of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the additional measures under assessment; it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
Additional public support measures in favour of the companies that operate the German racetrack and leisure park Nürburgring were decided on 15 May 2012 and partly implemented in order to avoid an immediate insolvency of the companies that operate the facilities. The measures consist of a rescheduling of interest payments on previously awarded loans, a subordination of claims and, possibly, an additional shareholder's loan in order to keep the companies in business for six months. During that period, a restructuring or liquidation plan will be drawn up.
The Commission considers that these additional measures are strongly linked to other aid measures that it has been investigating since March 2012 because of concerns that they may not have been granted on market terms. The Commission is concerned that Nürburgring may already have been a company in difficulties in 2008 (see IP/12/263), when it received the previous aid. Because of its highly distortive effects on competition, rescue or restructuring aid to a company in financial difficulties may be granted to a given company only once in a period of 10 years (the "one time, last time" principle of the EU guidelines on the rescue and restructuring of companies in difficulties, see MEMO/04/172).
The Commission will now investigate whether these repeated public interventions were in line with EU state aid rules.
Under the so-called "market economy investor principle" (MEIP), measures that were carried out on terms that a private player, operating under market conditions, would have accepted are not considered as state aid in the meaning of Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). If the MEIP was not respected, the measures constitute aid and the Commission then has to check whether such aid can be found compatible under EU rules, for instance under the Guidelines on rescue or restructuring aid for companies in difficulties.
The non-confidential version of the extension decision will be made available under the case number SA.34890 (and SA.31550 for the initial opening decision) 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.