EU probes SAS airline over state aid

EU probes SAS airline over state aid
The European Commission opened an in-depth probe on Wednesday to see if state aid given to Scandinavian Airlines by Sweden and Denmark conformed to EU rules.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), jointly controlled by Sweden, Norway and Denmark, has struggled to cope with the sharp economic slowdown in Europe, racking up losses and needing government help to keep it afloat.

Total aid in the past 10 years has come to about 10 billion kronor ($1.6 billion), the Swedish government said in late 2012 when it expressed strong doubts about putting in any more money.

The European Commission (EC) noted that SAS had raised money by selling shares in 2009 and 2010 and there was no issue to address in those instances.

But in 2012, the airline launched a restructuring programme on the back of a revolving credit facility worth about 400 million euros, which the EC said may not have been based on market conditions.

The way the RCF was put together also meant that “public shareholders increased their exposure to SAS…(and) the banks significantly reduced theirs,” the EC said in a statement.

In addition, there were also “concerns regarding the reliability of the business plan on the basis of which the public shareholders decided to participate in the new RCF,” it added.

The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

AFP/The Local/nr

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