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European Commission - Press release

State aid: Commission approves aid-free privatisation of German HSH Nordbank

Brussels, 26 November 2018

The European Commission has approved the sale of HSH Nordbank by the German Länder of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein to private investors, after finding the sale was carried out through an open, competitive and non-discriminatory process and resulted in a positive price without additional State aid.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition, said: "The German authorities have found a sustainable solution for HSH Nordbank that avoids the need for further public support for the bank. On the basis of the new private owner's business plan, HSH can become a viable market player, continuing to support economic development in Germany."

Under the May 2016 Commission decision, German authorities committed to sell HSH's operational part within an agreed deadline in an open, transparent and non-discriminatory tender process, at a positive price and without additional State aid, to a buyer that returns HSH to viability. Germany was required to notify the outcome of the sale process to the Commission, so that the Commission could verify that these conditions were met.

Today's decision confirms that the sale of HSH by the German Länder of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein to a consortium of private equity funds led by J.C. Flowers and Cerberus complies with the requirements set out in the 2016 Commission decision.

  •         Concretely, the Commission found that there is no aid to the buyers since HSH is being sold to the bidders with the highest and most credible offer, in an open and transparent process that resulted in a positive price.
  •         Furthermore, the Commission found that, under its new ownership's business plan, HSH is expected to return to viability. The business plan foresees a significant boost in the bank's profitability thanks to improved asset quality combined with increased efficiency and better cost control. This will ensure that HSH becomes a solvent and viable market player.

In particular, the successful completion of the privatisation will allow HSH to continue to perform its core activities in the market as a restructured and viable entity, without further need of public support.


HSH Nordbank, until now majority-owned by the two German Länder Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, ismainly active in the northern and metropolitan areas of Germany and  finances, inter alia, energy and infrastructure projects as well as shipping. The latter was one of the main causes for its difficulties during the financial crisis.

In September 2011, the Commission approved the restructuring of HSH Nordbank, including an asset guarantee of€10 billion, subject to conditions. This asset guarantee was reduced by the bank from €10 billion to €7 billion, in order to lower the bank's fee payments on the guarantee.

In June 2013 the Commission provisionally approved the re-increase of HSH's asset guaranteefrom €7 billion to €10 billion, due to adverse market conditions. In May 2016, after an in-depth investigation, the Commission gave final approval to the re-increase of the asset guarantee to €10 billion based on a series of commitments by the German authorities.

More information will be made available under the case number SA.52288 in the State Aid Register on the Commission's 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.


Press contacts:

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

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