ANNOUNCEMENT 12 Nov 2008In November 2008, the government of the Netherlands announced a change in private-sector financial support.
NUMBER OF INTERVENTIONS
the letter from the EC to the Netherlands - Brussels, 27.11.2008 C(2008) 7734 final). Available from < http://ec.europa.eu/competition/elojade/isef/case_details.cfm?proc_code=3_N569_2008 >
the letter from the EC to the Netherlands - Brussels, 17.08.2010 C(2010)5740 final. Available from : < http://ec.europa.eu/competition/elojade/isef/case_details.cfm?proc_code=3_N372_2009 >
On 12 November 2008 the Netherlands notified to the Commission its intention to provide a loan of EUR 3 000 000 000 to Vereniging Aegon (Aegon Association).
Aegon N.V. (hereafter "Aegon") is the holding company of the Aegon Group and is a public limited company under Dutch law. Aegon Group is a global life insurance and pension group and provider of investment products. It is internationally listed and one of the leading financial institutions in the Netherlands. Aegon Group has three main, established markets: the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which have traditionally generated most of the group's earnings. In recent years, Aegon Group has expanded its international presences pushing into markets such as China, Mexico, Japan, India and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Today, Aegon Group is present in more than twenty markets in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Aegon Group employs approximately 30,000 people worldwide.
The measure takes the form of a loan of EUR 3 000 000 000 which the Netherlands will provide to Vereniging Aegon.
The Commission found that the measure described above constitutes State aid to Aegon pursuant to Article 87 (1) EC Treaty and gave the following assessment:
"Given that Aegon is active in the financial sector, which is open to intense international competition any advantage from State resources to Aegon would have the potential to affect intra-Community trade and to distort competition. Since the Netherlands invest EUR 3 billion to acquire the securities, it is also clear that if any advantage is granted through the Measure, State resources are involved." (par. 41-42 of the letter from the EC to the Netherlands - Brussels, 27.11.2008 C(2008) 7734 final).
Article 87(3)(b) of the EC Treaty enables the Commission to declare aid compatible with the Common Market if it is "to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State." This aid has to be applied restrictively and must tackle a disturbance in the entire economy of the Member State according to the interpretation of the Article 87(3)(b) by the Court of First Instance.
The Commission referred to its Communication on the financial crisis (Temporary Framework) and concluded that the Measure complies with the conditions laid therein. Therefore, despite the measure constituting State aid pursuant to the Article 87(1) EC, it is compatible with the Common Market according to the Article 87(3)(b) EC Treaty. The Commission raises no objections against the measure at issue and authorizes it as emergency intervention in the face of the current financial crisis. (par. 52-76 of the letter).
Restructuring Aid to AEGON - State aid N 372/2009
Following the first aid measures (see above), a viability plan was submitted by the Dutch authorities on 22 June 2009. The Netherlands submitted an amended plan registered by the Commission on 19 November 2009. A final plan was submitted on 26 July 2010.
On 12 April 2010 the Commission received a complaint about allegedly distortive commercial behaviour of AEGON on the Dutch market in the group pension business and in certain segments of the banking market. A non-confidential version of the complaint was transmitted to the Netherlands for comments on 13 April 2010. On 12 May 2010 the Netherlands submitted to the Commission their comments on the complaint.
The restructuring plan contains detailed financial information and projections aimed at demonstrating the viability of AEGON. Further, the plan has been complemented by detailed commitments to structural and behavioural measures which aim at addressing the sources of difficulties of AEGON in the past, ensuring an adequate level of burden-sharing and limiting distortions of competition resulting from the State's intervention. (details can be found par. 40-74 of the letter from the EC to the Netherlands - Brussels, 17.08.2010 C(2010)5740 final)
Concerning the compatibility of the measure and its impact on trade and competition, the EC gave the following assessment:
"The Commission already found in the Rescue Decision that the EUR 3 billion capital injection granted by the Dutch State constitutes State aid. As the restructuring measures are a continuation of the rescue aid they also constitute State aid within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. The advantage persists and is affecting trade and distorting competition." (par. 84 of the letter)
"The amendment of the repayment conditions '...' of the remaining 500 million CCS (i.e. principal amount of EUR 2 billion) gives rise to additional State aid. For the reasons set out below, AEGON receives an advantage because the State is foregoing resources which it was entitled to obtain pursuant to the original contractual conditions. This advantage is selective, because it concerns AEGON alone, and involves the loss of State resources. The amendment is capable of distorting competition, since AEGON will be better-positioned than it would otherwise have been as compared with its unassisted counterparts in the various markets on which it is active. Since the beneficiary is active in several Member States the aid involved in the amendment is capable of affecting trade between Member States." (par. 85 of the letter)
"The presented plan meets the commitment provided by the Netherlands in so far as the capital injection enables AEGON to restore its long-term viability, is sufficient in respect to burdensharing and is proportional to offset the market-distorting effects of the aid measures in question. The plan submitted by AEGON therefore fulfils the relevant criteria of the Restructuring Communication and can therefore be considered compatible pursuant to Article 107(3)(b) TFEU." (par. 126 of the letter)
A state measure in the GTA database is assessed solely in terms of the extent to which its implementation affects the extent of discrimination against foreign commercial interests. On this metric, the state aid proposed here is discriminatory.