In October 2015, Italy notified plans to compensate Poste Italiane for carrying out its universal postal service obligation during the period 2016-2019. This includes basic postal services delivered throughout the country at affordable prices and at certain minimum quality requirements. Under a contract concluded between Italy and Poste Italiane, Poste Italiane would receive a maximum of €1.05 billion for the years 2016-2019 (€262 million per year).
Moreover, Italy also informed the Commission of compensations already approved but not yet paid for fulfilling the universal service obligation over the period 2012-2015 following the prolongation of a previous contract. The compensations for the period 2012-2015 would amount to a maximum of €1.34 billion (€335 million per year).
Under EU state aid rules on public service compensation, adopted in 2011, companies can be compensated for the extra cost of providing a public service subject to certain criteria. This enables Member States to grant state aid for the provision of public services whilst at the same time making sure that companies entrusted with such services are not overcompensated, which minimises distortions of competition and guarantees an efficient use of public resources.
In this case, the Commission's assessment showed that the compensation granted to Poste Italiane is based on a robust and conservative methodology, which ensures that it will not exceed the cost of the public service mission. In particular, all intangible benefits related to the status of being the provider of the universal service obligation, such as the synergies between postal and financial services, are duly estimated and taken into account in the calculation. Furthermore, the amount of aid granted decreases significantly over time, taking account of significant efficiency gains that will be made over the period of entrustment of the universal service obligation.
Poste Italiane is the largest provider of postal services in Italy. Since 1999, it has been designated as the universal postal service provider for the entire national territory of Italy. Until 12 October 2015, Poste Italiane was entirely owned by the Italian State. On that date, an initial public offering was started to sell part of the shares to private investors. On 27 October 2015, 38.2% of Poste Italiane's shares started trading on the Milan stock exchange with the State retaining the rest of the shares (i.e. 61.8%).
The previous universal service contract concluded between Italy and Poste Italiane initially covered the period 2009-2011. This contract was the basis for the universal service obligation compensations over 2009-2011 that were approved by the Commission in November 2012. Since no new contract could be signed for the period 2012-2015, the 2009-2011 contract was automatically extended on the basis of a tacit prolongation clause. The contract for the period 2016-2019 no longer contains such a tacit prolongation clause as this would not be in line with the obligation to strictly limit the duration of public service contracts contained in EU state aid rules on public service compensation.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.43243 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.