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European Commission - Press release

State aid: Commission finds Italy provided incompatible state aid to Banca Tercas and welcomes plans of private funds to step in

Brussels, 23 December 2015

Following an in-depth probe, the European Commission has concluded that the support granted by the Italian mandatory deposit guarantee scheme to Banca Tercas constitutes incompatible state aid based on the facts and circumstances at hand.

Banca Tercas is a small Italian bank with a market share of about 0.1% of total banking assets in Italy. In July 2014, the Italian mandatory deposit guarantee scheme Fondo Interbancario di Tutela dei Depositi (FITD) intervened in favour of Banca Tercas in order to cover the losses of the bank and support its sale to Banca Popolare di Bari. The Commission found that the FITD acted on behalf of the Italian State. The measures are not in line with EU state aid rules, because Italy did not present a restructuring plan and the measures did not minimise the aid nor the resulting distortions of competition. The Commission welcomes that private banks are now considering supporting Banca Tercas voluntarily. In any case, depositors remain fully protected.

EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "EU state aid rules set strict limits for providing support to banks in difficulty – they protect taxpayers and fair competition. All Member States have to take care to respect these rules. However, of course other banks are free to put up their own funds for such cases, by their voluntary decision and without State interference - I welcome they are now considering to step in for Banca Tercas."

In July 2014, the FITD with the approval of the Bank of Italy, provided approximately €300 million in support (through capital injections and guarantees) to Banca Tercas for its acquisition by Banca Popolare di Bari. These measures were not notified to the Commission as required by the Treaty.

The Commission opened an in-depth probe into the support measures in February 2015, because it had doubts on their compatibility with EU state aid rules. The Commission’s investigation showed that FITD acted on behalf of the Italian State when it granted support to Banca Tercas. Furthermore, the aid measures are not compatible with EU state aid rules, in particular the 2013 Banking Communication, because:

  •        Italy did not present a restructuring plan, so the Commission was not able to evaluate if the aided entity could return to long-term viability. This is notwithstanding the efforts that Banca Popolare di Bari may have made after its acquisition.
  •        Furthermore, although Banca Tercas' existing shareholders were fully written down at the time, subordinated creditors did not make any contribution to the cost of restructuring, as is required under burden-sharing principles.
  •        Finally, no measures were implemented that would have sufficiently limited the distortion of competition created by the aid.

While Banca Tercas has received incompatible aid, the Commission did not find evidence of aid to the buyer, Banca Popolare di Bari.

According to the information available to the Commission, the FITD has in the meantime consulted its members as to whether they would voluntarily agree to support Banca Tercas. If private actors decide according to their own objectives and from their own funds, without mandate from the State, to support banks in difficulties, no state aid issues would arise.

 

Background

Please see the Factsheet for further information.

Deposit guarantee schemes are mandatory under EU law to ensure that covered deposits are paid out when a bank is liquidated and exits the market, in which case there are no State aid issues. However, in the present case, the FITD intervened beyond this pay-out function to depositors by granting support to a bank in difficulty, Banca Tercas.

Banca Tercas is the holding company of a banking group operating mainly in the Abruzzo region. At the end of 2011, Banca Tercas had a total balance sheet of €5.3 billion and a market share of about 0.1% of total banking assets in Italy. On 17 April 2012 based on the findings of a supervisory inspection performed by Bank of Italy, the bank was placed under special administration.

On 27 July 2014 the extraordinary shareholders' meeting of Banca Tercas, called by the special administrator, decided to cover the losses, which had occurred during the special administration through the cancellation of all existing ordinary shares and a cash injection by the FITD. With the same occasion the shareholders approved a capital increase of EUR 230 million reserved to Banca Popolare di Bari, which after the subscription of the capital increase became the sole shareholder of Banca Tercas.

On 1 October 2014, the special administration of Banca Tercas was lifted and new management was appointed by Banca Popolare di Bari in its new capacity of sole shareholder of Banca Tercas.

On 27 February 2015, the Commission preliminarily concluded that the intervention by the FITD in favour of Banca Tercas constitutes State aid and opened an in-depth investigation. At that stage the Commission also considered that the information available was insufficient to establish whether the aid is compatible with the internal market.

The non-confidential version of the opening decision is already available in the State aid register on the competition website under the case number SA.39451, and the final decision will become available there once potential confidentiality issues have been resolved.

IP/15/6395

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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