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State aid: Commission orders recovery of incompatible aid paid to Deutsche Post

Commission Européenne - MEMO/12/37   25/01/2012

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MEMO/12/37

Brussels, 25 January 2012

State aid: Commission orders recovery of incompatible aid paid to Deutsche Post

The European Commission has concluded its investigation of a series of measures taken by Germany in favour of Deutsche Post. The Commission has found that part of the aid granted was compatible with the internal market and has ordered the recovery of incompatible aid.

From 1990 to 1995, Deutsche Post received public transfers of approximately € 5.6 billion as compensation for the costs of its public service obligations. Since 1995, Deutsche Post has also benefited from pension subsidies of approximately € 37 billion as relief from excessive pension costs of civil servants.

The public transfers of € 5.6 billion did not provide an undue advantage to Deutsche Post because those aid measures only covered the costs of its public service obligations and did not lead to any overcompensation. The Commission has therefore found that these public transfers did not confer an undue economic advantage to the company vis-à-vis its competitors and were in line with the 2005 Framework on services of general economic interest (see OJ C 297, 29.11.2005, p. 4).

By contrast, the pension subsidies granted since 1995 on account of the pension costs of civil servants have conferred an economic advantage to Deutsche Post. In line with previous cases (e.g. pension relief for civil servants working for French La Poste, see IP/07/1465), the Commission has verified whether the social security contributions borne by Deutsche Post were equivalent to those of its private competitors. In addition to the subsidies, Deutsche Post benefitted during the same period from increased stamp prices to finance a further share of the civil servants' pension costs. Taking account of this extra relief, Deutsche Post has effectively borne significantly lower social contributions than its private competitors for services which were open to competition (e.g. parcel services or retail banking). The Commission has ordered the recovery of the incompatible aid in the range of € 500 million to € 1 billion for the period from 2003 onwards.

Background

Deutsche Post is the incumbent postal operator in Germany. Although the German letter markets have already been fully liberalised in 2007, Deutsche Post still maintains a dominant position on those letter markets and holds an average market share of around 90 %.

Deutsche Post and its holding company Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN) have been since 1999 market leader in the European express and parcel markets. Thanks to various acquisitions (e.g. DHL, Danzas, Nedlloyd, ASG, Air Express International, Exel) DPWN is one of the world’s major providers of air cargo, sea freight, and global logistic services.

Deutsche Post has been listed on the stock exchange since 2001 and the majority of shares are owned by private investors.

Following complaints from competitors, the Commission extended in September 2007 its investigations that had originally started in 1999 (see IP/07/1312). On 11 May 2011, the Commission further enlarged the scope of its investigations to look more closely into the pension subsidies (see IP/11/554). Deutsche Post appealed both of those decisions. However, the General Court fully confirmed in its judgment of 8 December 2011 in the case T-421/07 Deutsche Post v Commission the scope of the current investigation that has been closed today.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA. SA.17653 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.

The Commission adopted on the same day (25.01.2012) three other State aid decisions in the Postal sector concerning Belgium, France and Greece (see IP/12/45, MEMO/12/38, MEMO/12/36 and MEMO/12/39).


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