Brussels, 19 September 2012
State aid: Commission orders recovery of €10 million unlawful aid from Slovenian ski maker Elan
The European Commission has ordered Slovenian authorities to recover €10 million of state aid it granted to the leisure equipment manufacturer Elan group in 2008. The Commission's investigation found that the 2008 capital injection was not in line with EU state aid rules, because a private player operating under market conditions would not have accepted to invest on similar terms. The capital injection therefore procured an undue economic advantage to Elan that its competitors did not have. The measure was unlawfully put into effect by Slovenia and Elan now needs to pay back the undue advantage with interests.
The Commission also found that a previous capital injection of €10 million carried out in 2007 did not constitute state aid in the meaning of the EU rules, because in this instance, Elan's state owned shareholders acted in the same conditions as its private shareholder, in line with the behaviour of a normal market investor.
Following a complaint, the Commission opened an in-depth investigation into the two capital injections totalling around €20 million in May 2010 (see IP/10/557).
Elan group, located in Slovenia, is active in producing skiing equipment, marine oriented crafts such as yachts and equipment for sports facilities.
At the time of the second capital injection in 2008, all of Elan's shareholders were at least majority owned by the State.
The Commission's investigation revealed that the 2008 capital injection had not been made on market terms (the so-called "market economy investor principle" – MEIP) and therefore constituted state aid in the meaning of the Treaty.
The Commission then verified whether the state aid could be found compatible with EU rules. As the company was in financial difficulties at the time of the 2008 capital injection, the Commission assessed the aid under the EU guidelines on the rescue and restructuring of companies in difficulties. The guidelines require in particular that the aid beneficiary implements adequate compensatory measures aimed at minimising the distortions of competition created by the state support. Elan did not carry out any such measures and therefore has to pay back the aid, so as to restore the level playing field in the EU's internal market.
Slovenia is currently looking for a private investor for Elan. To this end, a two stage public tender process was launched in 2011.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.26379 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.