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Brussels, 16 th October 2009
State aid: Commissioner Kroes expresses concerns that New Opel aid is conditional on choice of Magna/Sberbank
European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes has written to Germany's Economics Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg expressing her concerns that, according to the Commission's preliminary inquiries, there are significant indications that aid promised by German Government to New Opel was subject to the pre-condition that a specific bidder, Magna/Sberbank, was selected to acquire a majority of the shares in New Opel. The Commissioner indicated that such a precondition for the aid would be incompatible with EC Treaty state aid and internal market rules. Commissioner Kroes explained that GM and the Opel Trust should be given the opportunity to reconsider the outcome of the bidding process on the basis of firm written assurances by the German authorities that the aid would be available, irrespective of the choice of investor or plan, in order to ensure the long-term viability of New Opel, and subject to reasonable financing conditions.
In her letter, Commissioner Kroes recalled to Minister zu Guttenberg that state funding under the Temporary Framework (see and ) is meant to tackle problems due to the economic and financial crisis, and cannot be used to impose political constraints concerning the location of production activities within the EU. In a letter sent on 7th October to Germany and the six other Member States where New Opel has activities (Austria, UK, Spain, Belgium, Poland and Hungary), Commissioner Kroes had drawn attention to the need to ensure that such aid does not affect the economic freedom of the beneficiary undertakings to develop their activities within the EU's Single Market.
In her letter to Minister zu Guttenberg, Commissioner Kroes notes however that according to the Commission's preliminary inquiries there are significant indications that the aid promised by German Government to New Opel was already de facto conditioned to the selection of a specific bidder, Magna/Sberbank, on the basis of a business plan previously discussed/agreed with the German authorities (in particular with regard to the geographic distribution of the restructuring measures). Commissioner Kroes indicates that there are therefore grounds for concern that such conditionality has affected the decision adopted by GM and the Opel Trust to sell the majority of the shares of New Opel to Magna/Sberbank, thereby excluding alternative plans foreseeing a different distribution of restructuring measures within the EU.