(Source: European Commission)
The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, Romania’s plans to grant power company Complexul Energetic Oltenia SA (‘CE Oltenia’) restructuring aid for up to €2.66 billion (RON 13.15 billion). The measure will enable the company to finance its restructuring plan and restore its long-term viability.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The restructuring plan submitted by Romania and the aid to support it will ensure that CE Oltenia can return to long-term viability without the need of continued State aid. The public support comes with safeguards to make sure that possible distortions of competition are kept to the minimum and that the measures will support the EU decarbonisation objectives, in line with the European Green Deal.”
CE Oltenia is a Romanian public undertaking active in mining, power generation and local heat supply. The company is the third largest producer of electricity in Romania and is important for reasons of safety and adequacy of the National Energy System (‘NES’).
On 5 February 2021, the Commission opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether the restructuring plan submitted by Romania on 4 December 2020 and the related restructuring aid measures to support it were in line with EU State aid rules, more specifically the Commission’s Guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid.
The Romanian measure
During the in-depth investigation, Romania submitted a revised restructuring plan for the company, for the period 2021-2026, with significant modifications and improvements.
The plan will be supported by restructuring aid of up to €2.66 billion in the form of grants, a State guarantee for a loan, a capital injection, and a loan-to-grant conversion.
The restructuring plan builds on Romania’s decarbonisation plans to replace lignite-based electricity production with electricity produced from natural gas and renewables (solar and hydropower) which emit less or no CO2. This is expected to help the company improve its environmental footprint and, at the same time, reduce its operating costs. In addition, the restructuring plan will reduce the costs and improve the efficiency of the company, through, among others, organisational and managerial measures (e.g., improvements of processes), and financial measures (optimisation of bank loans, divestment or sales of assets).
The plan submitted by Romania generally supports the green objectives of decarbonisation set out in Romania’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP). However, the Commission’s State aid assessment of the restructuring plan for CE Oltenia under the present decision is separate and without prejudice to the Commission’s assessment of the implementation of Romania’s RRP.
The Commission’s assessment
The Commission assessed the restructuring plan and the restructuring aid under its Guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid.
The Guidelines only allow a State intervention in a company in financial difficulty under specific conditions, requiring in particular that the company undertakes a sound restructuring plan to ensure its return to long-term viability, that the company contributes to the cost of its restructuring, that competition distortions are limited and that the measure contributes to an objective of common interest.
The Commission found that the aid is appropriate, as it addresses both liquidity and solvency issues of the company. In particular, the Commission found that Romania will be appropriately remunerated for the aid. In this respect, the remuneration of the State will be achieved through expected positive net earnings increasing the value of the public stake in CE Oltenia and via the divestment of a minimum of 20% shares held by the State before 2026 as foreseen under the restructuring plan.
Furthermore, the Commission found the aid proportionate, with an own contribution from the company and market investors to the expected costs of restructuring amounting to over 30% of the restructuring costs (€1.24 billion), half of which consisting in fresh funding by private investors and financial institutions at market conditions.
Finally, compensatory measures are provided to limit potential distortions of competition triggered by the aid. This includes the creation by CE Oltenia, alongside other electricity producers, of dedicated special purpose vehicles for co-investment and operation of natural gas and photovoltaic power plants, as well as bans on the acquisition of interests in competing operators and on the advertisement of State support as a competitive advantage.
The Commission also found that the aid will support the decarbonisation of electricity production in Romania and, more generally, in Europe, in line with the EU objectives set out in the European Green Deal and with EU environmental rules.
On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Romanian measure is in line with EU State aid rules.
EU State aid rules, more specifically the Commission’s Guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid, enable Member States to support companies in difficulty, under certain strict conditions.
In February 2020, the Commission approved Romanian rescue aid to CE Oltenia.
The rescue aid approved by the Commission in February 2020, as well as the restructuring aid approved with the present decision address CE Oltenia’s long-term difficulties. The restructuring plan ensures that the viability of the company can be restored without continued State support.
The non-confidential version of the decisions will be made available under the case number SA.59974 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 Competition Weekly e-News.