The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether state aid granted by Portugal to Banco Internacional do Funchal S.A (Banif) was compatible with EU State aid rules. In particular, the final restructuring plan for Banif should ensure that the bank becomes viable long-term whilst limiting distortions of competition brought about by the state support. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment and increases legal certainty for the aid beneficiary. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
In January 2013, the Commission temporarily approved state support of €1.1 billion to enable Banif to comply with capital requirements imposed by the Portuguese banking regulator. A final decision on the compatibility of the support measures requires the Portuguese authorities to propose and the Commission to approve adequate restructuring measures for Banif.
Portugal submitted a restructuring plan for Banif, which was amended several times, most recently in October 2014. The Commission is assessing the proposed measures under the EU rules on state aid for the restructuring of banks during the crisis. At this stage, the Commission has concerns whether the measures meet the requirements under these rules, which aim to restore the long-term viability of the bank and ensure that the use of taxpayer money is limited to the minimum necessary to achieve this result. They also require that the bank and its owners contribute sufficiently to the cost of the restructuring and that distortions of competition brought about by the subsidies are limited.
The Commission will now investigate further to see if its concerns are justified, taking into account any views submitted by stakeholders, and work together with Portuguese authorities to ensure compliance with EU state aid rules.
Banif is currently the eighth-largest commercial bank in Portugal when measured by book asset value, with its main regional presence in the Azores and Madeira. It is listed on the Lisbon Stock Exchange. At the end of 2014 it held total assets amounting to €13.1 billion.
In January 2013 Banif obtained a €1.1 billion State recapitalisation, to be able to comply with minimum regulatory capital requirements. Portugal subscribed to shares worth €700 million issued by Banif and hybrid securities amounting to €400 million.
Please also see the Commission's Policy Brief "State aid to European banks: returning to viability" on the application of EU state aid rules in the banking sector.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.36123 in the State Aid Register on the 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.